A headteacher at Newman RC College has said leaks and floods at the school have persisted for nearly 10 years, resulting in children suffering while the building’s owners rake in profits.

Glyn Potts has been the headteacher at the Oldham secondary school for 11 years.

Yet throughout his tenure, the building has been marred by water leaking from the ceiling which damages equipment and poses a health and safety risk for pupils and staff.

There have been three major issues that have affected the building “since day one” of its opening in 2013.

The Oldham Times: Year 11's celebrating prom have been told to navigate carefully around the school - and its many buckets of water.Year 11's celebrating prom have been told to navigate carefully around the school - and its many buckets of water.

This includes the pipes and radiators, all of which were replaced in 2018 after they started “exploding”, and the roof.

The glazed roof has been in the process of repair for the past four years, but there is now such a complex web of companies involved that each new contractor blames the last for the damage.

Amid the myriad of what Mr Potts calls “excuses”, surveys on the flat part of the roof have concluded different things for the damage which range from inadequate maintenance to people walking across it.

One survey said that the damage was caused by birds pecking holes into it.

Mr Potts said a variety of all three reasons now crop up, with the addition of “another five or six excuses”.

“I’m no expert but we believe, fundamentally from these reports, that the roof needs replacing.

“If they had done that in the first place, we might have had a dry school”, he added.

Although the leaks have been going on for the past decade, Mr Potts said the situation has exacerbated in the last 12 months.

An estimated 20 classrooms all have water falling within the classroom space, forcing teachers and pupils to adapt and re-arrange around the buckets.

Even the bright and sunny weather recently has provided no relief to the school as there is now so much water in the building structure and its insulation that it leaks even on dry and hot days.

The Oldham Times: Buckets have lined the corridors at the school for 10 years.Buckets have lined the corridors at the school for 10 years.

But one of the prevailing problems in getting it fixed lies with the fact that the building is tied into a Public Finance Initiative (PFI) contract between Oldham Council and Balfour Beatty, meaning the school has no legal powers or rights to fix the building independently.

Repair work is once again scheduled to resume on the school over the course of the summer holidays, but Mr Potts said he remains sceptical if it will be done properly, and on time.

Mr Potts said: “We know that there is a potential repair plan over the summer, but there was last year and the year before that and the year before that.

“Given that this is my 10th to 11th year at the school, I’ve got no confidence that we will return to a safe, warm and dry school in September.

“How long do they need? And all the while, my children suffer when they shouldn’t be”, he added.

The health, safety and well-being of students are also a huge concern for the headteacher who fears children could slip on water or have plaster fall on them from the ceiling.

He said: “The leaks are so demanding that we are now at the position of forcing the building owners to pull the ceiling down for fear of them collapsing on people.

"And whilst that isn’t a risk – it’s only plaster – it is about the dignity and the focus of the young people that we serve.

“They shouldn’t be concerned about having drips on them and they shouldn’t be concerned about a ceiling tile being eroded by a leak and falling onto them.

“None of that is a dignified approach for the children of Oldham who, quite frankly, have been facing significant challenges because of Covid.”

The headteacher, who was recently awarded an MBE for his services to education, praised the students for their resilience and maturity over the issue but remains worried about how they're coping.

“We’re getting to the point where they feel it’s just the way it is – and that’s an awful thing for them to feel.

“The vast majority of their social space and dining space is affected and Oldham isn’t renowned for bright and beautiful weather so they just come conditioned to the idea that they’re not going to be able to have their dinner in peace without a leak.

“They are resilient and mature but I have to be honest and say they’re fed up", he said.

Staff are also adversely impacted by the consistent flooding to the point where Mr Potts believe it has driven some teachers out of the school.

Mr Potts believes fixing the school is just "not high enough on the agenda" and has criticised the Council and building owners for effectively finding ways to dodge accountability.

He added: “I’m ashamed. I’m ashamed because I feel absolutely powerless to change this situation and I feel as though the voices of 1,500 young people come second to the profit of an organisation that can hide behind the structures of PFI contracts.

“The Council are making money off the building themselves by being shareholders and are receiving money for deductions, so there’s just no motivation for them to do this because it’s addressing a budget deficit.”

The school had its prom event on Wednesday (June 29) which Mr Potts was worried about.

He said at the time that he was “praying to God” that it would not be affected by the leaks but was anxiously checking the weather forecast.

“I’m just hopeful that these young people – and let’s not forget, they’ve endured two years of Covid and have had exams for the first time in three years and all the anxiety that comes with that – I just pray to God that I’ll be able to give them a prom this evening that they’ll be proud of.”

The Oldham Times: Mr Potts said the video footage of the buckets only shows a 'fraction' of the extent of the leaks.Mr Potts said the video footage of the buckets only shows a 'fraction' of the extent of the leaks.

Councillor Mohon Ali, Cabinet member for education and skills, said: We are aware of the ongoing issues at Newman RC College, and of the unacceptable conditions the school’s pupils and staff have had to endure, through no fault of their own, for far too long.

“We continue to do everything in our power to help resolve this situation and our leadership team is actively involved with the school to hold the contractors to account, and to apply pressure where needed.

“The matter has also been regularly raised with the government’s Department for Education and the main contractor.

“Regular meetings are being held with the council, the school, the building owner and their primary sub-contractor, and a programme of works has been agreed with the contractor which is ongoing.

“The nature of work means this will gather pace and be carried out during the summer holidays to minimise major disruption to term time.

“We remain committed to finding a sustainable solution, as we want Newman College and its students to have a facility free from defects where it can focus on delivering the best education possible and helping our communities to be the best they can.”

Balfour Beatty has also been approached for comment.