PARKFIELD School's controversial proposed move to a site near Bournemouth Airport has been delayed for a year.

Parents received the shock news on Tuesday, just two months before their children were due to start lessons at Hurn.

The discovery of a colony of bats in buildings at the former air traffic control centre has been cited as the cause of the change of plan.

Now hundreds of pupils will remain in former office block Dorset House in Christchurch Road, Bournemouth until the problems with the move are resolved.

Principal Terry Conaghan and Chair of Governors Amita Sen Gupta sent an email to parents, carers and staff after a meeting with representatives from the Department for Education this afternoon (Tues).

The email said: "After extensive deliberations and collection of evidence, the Trustees, Leadership Team and the Education Funding Agency have made the difficult decision to remain at Dorset House for another year.

"We believe that this is in the best interests of the health and safety of the children, parents and staff.

"We are aware that this will be a disappointing decision for many, however the discovery of bats and the legal requirements surrounding their protection and the subsequent delay in building works is beyond our control."

In 2013 parents were told a permanent, purpose-built site would be found for Parkfield in Bournemouth town centre.

Many voiced concerns when the Hurn site was announced in January 2014.

In the email to parents, Mr Conaghan and Dr Sen Gupta added: "There are, in our view, positive aspects of this decision."

They said parents will now avoid traffic delays when improvements to the A338 Spur Rod are carried out later this year, that roads in the area of the site will be improved by the time the school opens and that more parking will be available next year.

One parent told the Daily Echo: "We are going to try to find out more details about this because we have some tough decisions to make.

"There are so sports facilities at Dorset House and we are annoyed because they must have known about this for a long time without mentioning it.

"A lot of people have chosen Parkfield because of the move to Hurn - I don't know how they're going to feel about it."


February 2011: Plans announced for a free school in Bournemouth

May 2011: Detailed plans submitted to the Department for Education

August 2011: Finance House in Holdenhurst Road was identified as a potential site

October 2011: Department for Education approved the school to open in September 2012

February 2012: Terry Conaghan appointed as principal

February 2012: School announced it was buying Homelife House in Bournemouth

June 2012: Sale fell through

July 2012: Opening postponed for a year just weeks before pupils were due to start there

April 2013: Announced plans to move into Dorset House

September 2013: Dorset House was not ready for the start of term and lessons were held at Butcher’s Coppice Scout Camp

September 2013: Parents were told a permanent, purpose-built school would replace Dorset House within two years in Bournemouth town centre

January 2014: Plans were announced to move to a former air traffic control centre at Hurn after they failed to locate a site in Bournemouth town centre.

July 2014: School held its summer fete at new site

May 2015: Ofsted rated the school as Requires Improvement

June 2015: Parents discovered they could be hit with a £650 transport bill to get their children to and from Hurn