St Alban's Roman Catholic High School is in a grade II-listed building in Pontypool Park.
St Alban's Roman Catholic High School is in a grade II-listed building in Pontypool Park Credit: LDRS

CONDITIONS at secondary school are so bad plaster “literally falls from the ceiling and walls onto pupils’ desks”. 

That is according to a teacher, who has worked at St Albans Roman Catholic High School, in Pontypool, for 23 years and said colleagues and pupils have to “work in an environment that poses daily health and safety risks”. 

They had outlined their experiences in an anonymised letter to councillors pleading for funding for a replacement building, and highlighted other dangers including from electrical fires. 

They wrote: “In some classrooms, mushrooms are sprouting from the walls while in winter, classrooms are so cold pupils wear coats to keep warm and let’s not forget the evacuations of the school buildings that have needed to happen because of fires caused by wiring that needs replacing.” 

Staff and pupils were evacuated from the school in April 2022 when an electrical fire broke out. 

The teacher also outlined the impact on the school budget of having to keep carrying out repairs to the grade II-listed building: “Money for educational equipment such as pens, paper and books is not as readily available as it should be. As teachers we work with minimal supplies, a limited photocopying budget, and frequently resort to buying resources for our classrooms from our own pockets.” 

They added: “All schools should be able to prioritise spending their budget on the teaching and learning of the pupils, not on futile attempts to cover up cracks in the crumbling walls.” 

The letter concluded with a warning that: “St Alban’s needs and deserves a new school or it will only be a matter of time before something catastrophic happens as a result of buildings that are no longer able to have plasters stuck onto their gaping wounds to sustain them.” 

A parent supplied a photograph of mushrooms on the wall of a classroom taken by their daughter, who left the school in 2022, and said how she was distracted from lessons by the condition of the building. 

A photograph of mushrooms growing on a classroom wall at St Alban's school taken by a pupil who left in 2022.
A photograph of mushrooms growing on a classroom wall at St Alban’s school taken by a pupil who left in 2022. Credit: Submitted to Torfaen County Borough

The school’s site manager said they were in two minds over sending their son to the school this September. 

They said: “I battled with it is because of the state of the buildings and the awful teaching spaces that teachers and pupils have to work in – how many employees of Torfaen can say they work in classrooms and offices where mould is visibly growing on walls? Or when it’s cold have to have electric heaters plugged into the walls alongside the central heating and still struggle to get the classrooms to 18 degrees, I see first-hand teachers teaching pupils who all have their coats on.” 

One former pupil who attended the 11 to 16 school from 2012 to 2017 catalogued a series of incidents from their schooldays including heavily rainfall leaking into the science block, a ceiling “breaking away” before eventually collapsing overnight while the parent of a current pupil said they want their child not to have to “endure bad smells in certain rooms”. 

Nearly all of the letters praised the standard of teaching at St Alban’s and many described it as the best performing school in Torfaen and highlighted the pastoral support for pupils. 

Torfaen council is in discussions with the Archdiocese of Cardiff, which is responsible for the school, on funding for a rebuild or replacement but says it doesn’t have the money to contribute, though 85 per cent funding could be available from the Welsh Government. 

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