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Pupils at new Maritime Academy in Frindsbury to temporarily learn at Twydall Primary School in Gillingham

Councillors have raised concerns about government-led plans to temporarily host secondary school pupils at a primary school.

A new 1,150-place school in Frindsbury, near Strood, called Maritime Academy, was approved by Medway Council last September but construction has yet to begin.

An artist's impression of Maritime Academy in Strood. Picture: The Heritage Design and Development LTD
An artist's impression of Maritime Academy in Strood. Picture: The Heritage Design and Development LTD

In the meantime, parents have been informed pupils at the school – which will eventually be located between Berwick Way, Parsonage Lane, and Frindsbury Hill – will learn at Twydall Primary School from this September.

The actual site is due to open in 2024. There had been plans to host the pupils at the former Stoke Primary Academy building in Lower Stoke, about six and a half miles away.

The plans for the school were drawn up between the council, the Department for Education (DfE), and the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), which will be running the school in a bid to meet the demand for pupil places in the Medway Towns.

According to the school's website, a free bus service will be put on to transport pupils from Strood to Twydall.

Cllr Mark Prenter (Lab), who represents the area, said: “The Conservative government clearly has little understanding of what it’s like for students and their families when starting at a new school.

Twydall Primary School, Twydall Lane. Picture: Google Streetview
Twydall Primary School, Twydall Lane. Picture: Google Streetview

"Their last-minute intervention, with less than four months to go until the start of the new school year, adds an unnecessary burden.

“We will also monitor closely the impact of the new arrangement on them and on Twydall.

"With buses delivering and collecting nearly 200 students a day, we will want to know that everything has been done to ensure our community does not suffer any impact.”

Last week, residents in Twydall received a letter from the chief executive of the Rainham Mark Education Trust – which runs Twydall Primary School – explaining the situation.

It says the school will benefit from some newly-refurbished classrooms and play equipment, adding: "Maritime Academy will operate as a discrete school in a separately contained and accessed part of the building until their permanent site is ready."

Cllr Mark Prenter
Cllr Mark Prenter

Cllr Clive Johnson, the Labour Group's spokesman for children and young people, added: “The government is clearly in chaos and you would think that the DfE would know better than to disrupt plans at this late stage.

"I’m sure council staff will do the best they can in difficult circumstances. This is simply not good enough."

Medway Council said 180 pupils were accepted from 286 applications.

The Berwick Way site will also host 181 new homes and a wedding venue within a Grade I-listed barn.

The DfE said investigations are currently underway at the site, and construction on the school is expected to take 16 months and start this Autumn.

It added the decision to host pupils in temporary classrooms was taken in December last year and a lease is currently being negotiated for part of the Twydall site.

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