NEWS of Parkfield School's move to Bournemouth Airport being delayed to 2017 may only have reached parents in the past few days.

But the school has known about the extent of the asbestos problems for months, the Daily Echo and BBC can reveal.

Parkfield opened as a free school in 2013, under the flagship policy of former education secretary Michael Gove.

Minutes from the school's finance and audit committee in January state the whole school would not be in the building until Easter 2017.

Under the title 'Premises Update', the minutes state: "Proposals have been put forward to the school with regards to some minor temporary accommodation (for around three weeks), and the EFA have set aside contingency for any temporary accommodation required.

"The whole school should be in the building by Easter 2017."

It said the contractors were trying to "expedite timelines".

Prior to this, a meeting of the same committee in October 2015, heard further funds were needed from the EFA due to more asbestos being found than surveys had previously revealed.

An email in May 2015 between the head teacher and EFA project director also reveals an attempt to conceal the discovery of further asbestos from parents.

The email from the unnamed EFA project director, quoting part of a newsletter to parents, said: "My understanding of our last discussion on this was that you would not mention asbestos to parents.

"As we discussed the general public do not understand the management of asbestos ie that it is usually safe unless disturbed."

Mr Conaghan replied: "The asbestos at the site was already in the public domain as it had been reported on several years ago by the Bournemouth Echo (and is still accessible on the internet)."

The project director replied: "The description of asbestos as 'dangerous' is I suggest likely to give cause for concern."

Asbestos works have recently been completed, the Department for Education, said, with surveys carried out prior to the purchase of the site.

They added: "However, as with all surveys it is not always possible to identify all matters until construction works start."

When asked if parents had been told about the extent of the asbestos issues, they said: "We take asbestos in schools very seriously and comply with all good practice arrangements and will provide a fully safe environment for teaching and learning in the new facilities."

They declined to comment directly on the controversial email exchange, but parents have stated they were unaware of the extent of the problem.

The DfE also refused to say how much the works will cost, but said figures would be available once construction is complete.

Parents slam ‘lack of leadership’

Parents have heavily criticised the school's leadership, lack of communication and poor educational standards.

Speaking to the Daily Echo, one mother, who has decided to withdraw both her children from the school, said: "We were told they found asbestos a year ago and that's all we've heard.

"Aside from that there has been an appalling lack of information.

"They've failed everyone. They don't answer phone calls or emails. There are children leaving across all year groups. We feel like we've been cheated.

"The problem is the leadership.

"We're not the kind of parents that cause a fuss, but we've just had enough.

"And we're not alone.

"The school is responsible for so much panic and distress."

Another mum, who withdrew her son from the school earlier this year, said: "It's shambolic. In the beginning, I was very positive, and the school's ethos was amazing.

"I even joined the parent council to take things forward and become part of the school.

"But if you raise any issue with them the leadership takes it as a personal criticism. It was thrown back at you.

"The children suffered from it in the end and their education has suffered.

"The school takes no responsibility for their actions. It is always someone else's fault."

She said a handful of children from her son's year were staying on, but parents were withdrawing their children "in droves".