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Mould forces walkout at TN Tatem

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Locked out: classes were called off at the start of the school day yesterday at TN Tatem Middle School in Warwick as teachers returned to work after spring break to find heavy mould infestation in at least three rooms at the school (Photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)

Staff and pupils staged a walkout at a mould-infested middle school yesterday.

Classes were called off at TN Tatem Middle School after teachers and pupils left the Warwick premises over health and safety fears.

School sources said staff returned from spring break and noticed a strong smell of mould — a problem in several classrooms since 2016.

Staff brought pupils out of the building at about 8.30am.

One source said mould had hit “the exact same three rooms” closed off two years ago, when pupils were transferred to Clearwater Middle School in St David’s as an emergency measure.

Kalmar Richards, the Commissioner of Education, said last night that she had seen a letter of concern sent to senior officials on Monday by parents and staff that highlighted “grave concerns about the health of the learning environment”.

The education ministry said M3 pupils should report to nearby Purvis Primary School today and tomorrow.

Pupils from M2 should go to Heron Bay Primary School in Southampton and M1 pupils should attend at Paget Primary.

The letter to the ministry, signed by the Parent Teacher Student Association president Albert Wilson with the school’s health and safety co-ordinator, asked for air quality and mould tests, as well as repairs.

The source said the move was backed by TN Tatem parents.

The source added the walkout underlined a persistent mould problem at TN Tatem, despite a clean bill of health from the Government in February.

The school source said cleaning had been inadequate.

The source added: “They changed the ceiling tiles, they changed the drywall, but they never got to the source of the damp.”

Air checks two years ago found aspergillus and penicillium mould, as well as toxic strains chaetomium and stachybotrys.

Staff and students walked to Purvis PS to finish their school day and Diallo Rabain, the Minister of Education, met staff from both schools.

Ms Richards said that the Cabinet Safety and Health Officer would inspect the school this morning and hold a training session for staff after school.

She emphasised that health complaints were taken “very seriously”, and thanked staff at Purvis Primary, Heron Bay and Paget Primary for their help.

All public schools will be shut on Friday for the Agricultural Exhibition.

Deserted: TN Tatem Middle School was left empty yesterday (Photograph by Owain Johnston-Barnes)
TN Tatem Middle School in Warwick (File photograph)