Foster's academy building is a nightmare, says school's boss
A flagship academy school, designed by Foster & Partners, has been branded a “nightmare” by the woman who runs it.
The £31 million Business Academy Bexley, a 2004 Stirling Prize nominee in south-east London, was the UK’s first city academy, and was opened by former prime minister Tony Blair seven years ago this month.
But it has been hit by a catalogue of maintenance problems, and the school’s chief executive Sam Elms said this week that if she had her way she would move the school into a building more suitable for teaching.
The constant problems have meant the school’s deficit could now rise from the current £500,000 to more than £850,000 next year, according to the Times Educational Supplement.
The school has had to shell out £15,000-a-year on temporary changing facilities because Foster’s building has just two changing rooms for 1,350 pupils. It is also spending a further £14,000 on external storage because there is not enough room on site.
Other problems include broken boilers, sewage defects, peeling paint, and a leaking roof which has continued to baffle experts.
Elms told today’s Times Educational Supplement: “The roof leaks across the building which causes the floor to bubble.”
She added: “It’s a hugely expensive building and costs us an absolute fortune. It’s a nightmare to run. If we could move to another building, we would. It’s not great but we do the best we can.”
The academy was intended to set the standard for New Labour’s city academies programme – and includes high-end fixtures and fittings such as taps, door handles and even toilet seats shipped in from Italy.
It has now begun an austerity drive which has included not replacing staff who left over the summer and swapping pricey broken taps and toilet seats with less expensive models.
When it was launched it was hailed as a model of future learning.
Cabe said at the time: “The light and airy exterior is full of bustling young people busily engaged in activities, although regrettably not visible to the outside world.”
And on the fit-out of the building, it added: “The provision of furniture and equipment is almost lavish.”
Foster & Partners declined to comment.