More than 100 schools told to close buildings over safety fears

News / Thu 31st Aug 2023 at 02:07pm

NEW measures to minimise the impact of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in education settings have been published today, Thursday 31 August, by the Government.     

While building maintenance is the duty of councils and academy trusts, new RAAC cases have reduced the Department for Education’s confidence that school and college buildings with confirmed RAAC should remain open without mitigations in place.   

As a result, following careful analysis of new cases, the Department is taking the precautionary and proactive step to change its approach to RAAC in education settings, including schools. This decision has been made with an abundance of caution and to prioritise safety of children, pupils, and staff ahead of the start of the new term.    

The vast majority of schools and colleges will be unaffected by this change.   

Just over 50 settings have already been supported to put mitigations in place this year, including through additional funding for temporary accommodation, and all children are receiving face to face learning.  

This week, the Department has contacted all 104 further settings where RAAC is currently confirmed to be present without mitigations in place, to ask them to vacate spaces or buildings that are known to contain RAAC. 

The majority of these settings will remain open for face-to-face learning on their existing site, because only a small part of the site is affected by RAAC. A minority will need to either fully or partially relocate to alternative accommodation while mitigations are put in place because of the extent to which RAAC is present.   

The Government has been aware of RAAC in public sector buildings since 1994. In 2018, the Department for Education published guidance for schools about the need to have adequate contingencies in place for the eventuality that RAAC-affected buildings need to be vacated at short notice.   

Officials from the Department have also contacted responsible bodies directly to remind them of the need to ensure that these plans are in place. The small proportion of schools that are impacted are being contacted directly by a Department for Education case worker and full support will be provided.The Department will continue to work with all education settings to identify RAAC and provide support where it is confirmed to be present.   

Parents will be contacted by their school if pupils are moving to a temporary location while remediation works are being carried out. A full explainer for parents can be found here.  

Education Secretary, Gillian Keegan, said:   

“Nothing is more important than making sure children and staff are safe in schools and colleges, which is why we are acting on new evidence about RAAC now, ahead of the start of term.  

“We must take a cautious approach because that is the right thing to do for both pupils and staff.  

“The plan we have set out will minimise the impact on pupil learning and provide schools with the right funding and support they need to put mitigations in place to deal with RAAC”.  

While some short-term disruption is inevitable as a result of this change, all available measures are being taken to minimise disruption to learning. The Department for Education is providing further support including:   

·        Providing funding for essential immediate works needed to remove any immediate risk and, where necessary, to support the provision of temporary buildings for schools and colleges affected.  The Department will work closely with responsible bodies to manage RAAC in the long-term, supported by capital funding provided to the sectors each year, and through the school rebuilding programme.    

·        Assigning a dedicated caseworker to each school/college affected, who will work with them to assess their particular needs and implement individually designed mitigation plans. This could include using other spaces on the school or college site, using spaces in nearby schools or elsewhere in the local area, or putting in place safety measures in the affected area. If needed, the caseworker will be onsite to support the school.   

·        Issuing further guidance to schools and colleges on identifying and managing RAAC. This will set out how the Department will provide support and funding to schools and other settings so that face-to-face education continues safely.   

·        Project delivery, property, and technical experts will be on hand to support schools to put face-to-face education measures in place.  

Since 2015, £15 billion has been invested to keep schools safe and operational, whilst buildings at 500 schools will be transformed over the next decade through the School Rebuilding Programme. Settings in the poorest condition and those with evidence of potential safety issues are being prioritised, including some now known to contain RAAC.    

Settings that are concerned about the presence of RAAC should continue to inform the Department through its ongoing questionnaire. Parents will be contacted by their school if pupils are moving to a temporary location while remediation works are being carried out.  

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7 Comments for More than 100 schools told to close buildings over safety fears:

Crandrew Whithbeam
2023-08-31 16:16:00

Government knew about this months and months ago- why are we just being told now???!!!!

2023-08-31 16:29:10

The Government will try to make excuses and blame others (as normal) but they have known about this problem for at least 5 years. Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said "the danger of structural failure in school buildings... has been known since at least 2018", and was cited in the Department of Education's own annual report last year." To leave this announcement until a week before kids are due to return to school just shows the sheer incompetence of this shambolic Government!

2023-08-31 20:58:14

Can we just stop the party politics and blaming the current government. This is clearly an issue contributed to by both parties over the last few decades. This isn’t a one party issue so can all the local councillors, just for once, stop using these comment sections on yourharlow to have a go at each other…

2023-08-31 23:20:53

"The Local Government Association said it had been warning about the risk of RAAC since 2018." There has only been one Government in power since 2018. Why wasn't something done about it before now? I'm not a local councillor or a member of any political party. I'm a very concerned member of the public who is angry about the current state of our vital public services that this current Government has decimated with its funding cuts over the last 13 years in the name of "austerity".

2023-09-01 06:53:49

Goverment is failing people,schools, hospitals not safe,no decent pay for staff(nhs teachers etc),roads are in mess, no police,they only can raise benefits by13% ,but for whom who need it there is nothing left!!!.Face the truth conservatives destroyed this country by putting money in a wrong pockets

2023-09-01 08:06:33

What bothers me about this RAAC, is that it's use isn't limited to schools or other public buildings. It's also been used in social housing built in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s - Harlow has rather a lot of houses that fall into that category.

2023-09-01 12:29:07

Lostinthemiddle, when the Conservatives came to power they stopped the previous government's school building program. In the thirteen years they have been in power they have underinvested in the schools capital program. The Conservatives were warned about impending structural problems in schools five years ago, their response was to send out a questionnaire, nothing else. Political choices made by the Conservatives are the reason we are where we are now, they shouldn't be allowed to avoid their responsibility for it.

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