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Coronavirus delays opening of new Bishop's Stortford primary school for a year

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Covid-19 has delayed the opening of Bishop's Stortford's newest primary school by a year.

Avanti Meadows at St Michael's Hurst was due to open in September, but children who requested admission have now been allocated places elsewhere in the town.

The primary has been built to accommodate up to 90 reception class pupils and grow to 630 across its seven year groups. It will also have a 26-place nursery.

Avanti Meadows Primary School, Farnham Road, Bishop's Stortford. New Primary under construction - viewed from Rye Street. .Pic Vikki Lince. (34529574)
Avanti Meadows Primary School, Farnham Road, Bishop's Stortford. New Primary under construction - viewed from Rye Street. .Pic Vikki Lince. (34529574)

Cllr Terry Douris, Herts County Council's cabinet member for education, said: "The delay in opening will not lead to any children being without a school place this year. All local children who applied for reception places have been allocated alternative places within the town for September.

"Construction of the new homes in these new developments has also been affected, which means the need for school places is currently less than previously anticipated."

A spokesman for HCC, which is the education authority, said spare capacity at the town's other schools was taken into consideration before the postponement was agreed.

Avanti Meadows Primary School, artist's impression (34529580)
Avanti Meadows Primary School, artist's impression (34529580)

He added: "There will be costs resulting from the delay, but these cannot be quantified until we have completed discussions with Avanti."

Avanti Schools Trust, a Hindu faith-based organisation, runs 10 schools in London, Leicester, Bristol, Somerset and Exeter, with four more in pre-opening.

HCC chose it as sponsor for the new primary along with a 420-pupil primary at Stortford Fields, near Hoggate's Wood, and for a secondary school with 900 places on a campus straddling the A120 bypass. All three will be non-faith in a new departure for Avanti.

So far, only Avanti Meadows has been built and its fit-out was in progress when lockdown came. The delay in occupation raises concerns about what will happen to the building in the intervening 16 months. The spokesman said: "We will be making arrangements for site security and necessary maintenance until the building comes into use."

Deborah Walters (34529594)
Deborah Walters (34529594)

The change to the timetable is not expected to affect building work on the new secondary, set to be completed by September 2022.

Avanti had already appointed Deborah Walters as principal of the new primary. The trust has not responded to Indie inquiries about the consequences of the delay for its programme.

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