Pupils of Harris Academy in Wimbledon to spend another half-term in temporary buildings due to coronavirus

By Tara O’Connor, Local Democracy Reporter

Pupils at Harris Academy Wimbledon will face another half-term in temporary buildings as a brand new school site is delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It means the 180 new Year 7 children joining in September will be taught at Harris Academy Morden.

Year 8 and 9 children will stay at a temporary site in Whatley Avenue where the school has been based since it opened in 2018.

It was hoped that the school could move to its permanent site in High Path, South Wimbledon, next door to Merton Abbey Primary School this September.

But principal Joanne Larizadeh said she was expecting the school to move over to the new building after the October half-term.

The delay is due to the building site being forced to close at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has also disrupted the supply of materials.

“Of course we are disappointed, but in the situation we are in it is understandable,” said Ms Larizadeh.

“The new students will still have the same teaching and learning and it is only for a half-term in the grand scheme of things.”

Ms Larizadeh said the first two years of running the school have been “absolutely fantastic”.

She added: “I’ve really enjoyed it – we were oversubscribed in the first years and we’ve had a fantastic cohort and it has been a real pleasure to recruit new staff.

“What is different about starting a new school is we all grow together and shape the school together.”

Since the lockdown there have been about 40 pupils a day at the school as it is still open to the children of key workers and vulnerable children.

For the rest of the pupils, there have been live virtual lessons as well as work set online.

When the new school is able to reopen in October, it is set to have modern facilities including artificial football pitches, drama studios and a recording studio.

Ms Larizadeh added: “We are so excited to get in there but I always say, I genuinely believe that great schools aren’t made by buildings they are made by outstanding teaching and learning.

“The students have made tremendous progress since they joined.”

Plans for the new school were given the go-ahead by Merton council in November 2018.

To make way for the new school, it was decided that Elim Pentecostal Church will move from High Path to Merton Hall, which involved the part demolition of the council-owned hall – a move that angered some residents.

Others were concerned about the impact on poor air quality for children attending the new school.

But for the planning committee these concerns were outweighed by the need for the new 1,150 pupil school.

Pictured top: Joanne Larizadeh


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