YOUNGSTERS attending Dunmow’s newest primary may have to be taught in temporary classrooms for three more years due to delays in building a new school.

Essex County Councillor for Dunmow Susan Barker says she understands the new 'all-through' primary and secondary school due to be built in Buttleys Lane is intended to be occupied from November 2026 – even though it had originally been planned to open as early as 2021.

The new Helena Romanes Primary, which was meant to move straight into the new permanent building when it opened in 2021, has instead had to operate in temporary classrooms on the grounds of the existing secondary school.

To accommodate new students, Essex County Council wants teaching in temporary classrooms to continue at Helena Romanes until August 31, 2025.

Only temporary Block 1 has been constructed but with the delay of the all-through school, there is a need to provide additional classrooms.

The school has been planned for years as pressure for places in Dunmow grew due to extensive housebuilding.

The new primary school has been designed for 420 students while the secondary and sixth form part of the new school is for another 1,600.

The county council has admitted that without a new primary school, and the expansion of the Helena Romanes School as an all-through school, there is currently no way to provide local school places for children in Great Dunmow.

Currently the number of students attending Helena Romanes Primary is small – just four students have been accepted to start in September 2023 even though it had an admissions number of 30.

The school has said it can accept up to 30 students to reception in September 2024. Around 60 are accepted each year at St Mary’s Dunmow and Great Dunmow primaries.

The all-through school was approved by Essex County Council in April 2021 but development, which depends on Helena Romanes being sold and redeveloped for 200 houses, is yet to commence.

The plans were only allowed on appeal by the Planning Inspectorate in March 2023 after Uttlesford District Council originally refused the application.

A statement said: “The refusal of this application and subsequent appeal proceedings have caused a significant delay in the provision of the new school which, in turn, impacts the school’s ability to provide appropriate education for local children, as it is required by the National Planning Policy Framework.”

Councillor Barker said she had been given a date for the new all-through school to be finished, but conceded she did not know what would happen if the development of the current school for homes was paused

She said: “The last I have from education at Essex is they intend to occupy the site from November 2026. That is what I was told.

“It doesn’t seem very far away. But until somebody puts a spade in the ground I haven’t shouted too much about it.

"It’s great it’s going ahead. It’s great there is going to be a new school and not a refurbished school.

"It’s great the DfE has awarded the funding to make it work. But until I see a spade in the ground…”

In a separate development, another two-form new primary school is also being planned as part of the ongoing development of up to 790 homes on land west of Woodside Way.

Developers are expected to contribute £5million as well as the land, which has to be handed over to Essex County Council at the 75th home occupation.

Developers are also expected contribute around £1.6million towards infrastructure, including more than £1.2million for education and more than £300,000 for bus services as part of an agreement for development of 120 new homes at the adjacent Wood Field development, also west of Woodside Way.

Essex County Council has been approached for comment.