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New school delayed by wrangling

Plans to open a new secondary school have been put on hold for a year because of a delay in signing a pound;17 million private-sector funding agreement. Teachers and the first intake of 180 pupils at the new Oaks Park high school, Redbridge, east London, will instead use temporary mobile classrooms next term.

The school is the first in the borough to be built under the policy of getting businesses to fund public building projects via the Private Finance Initiative. But because of a dispute between Redbridge Council and Norwich Union Public Private Partnership Fund over the size of the bill, it will not open its new permanent building until September 2002.

Building work was suspended in April for four months, but the PFI contract has now been signed. Under the 30-year deal, NUPPP will design and build the school and deliver long-term maintenance and related services for the buildings and its students.

A Redbridge council spokesman said it would fund the the cost of renting the mobile classrooms.

Headteacher Steve Wilks said: "The staff can't wait to get started as it has been a difficult time for them as well." Redbridge Labour councillor Richard Newcombe, Cabinet member for education and lifelong learning, said he was pleased the PFI contract had now been signed.

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