MP Robert Halfon issues statement on closure of Harlow schools due to safety concerns

News / Fri 1st Sep 2023 at 12:40pm

HARLOW MP Robert Halfon has issued a statement following the news that more than 150 schools in England have been identified as having a type of potentially dangerous concrete – with many now closing buildings or classrooms to make them safe.

This includes Katherines Primary Academy that is completely closed until further notice and Jerounds Primary Academy that is partially closed.

Mr Halfon said: “From the 1950s, a number of schools and public buildings were built using Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC). This is a lightweight concrete and much different from the traditional concrete that is used today. 

Since 1994, successive Governments have been aware of public buildings which contain RAAC. This Government has been working closely with schools since 2018 when it first published a warning note with the Local Government Association.  

The Department for Education has been closely monitoring the condition of school buildings, continually assessing new information and evidence about RAAC across the school estate  to make sure the correct support is in place. 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. 

The Government has provided over £15 billion since 2015 to support the school estate and keep schools and other educational settings in good working order, including £1.8 billion committed for this year alone. The Schools Rebuilding Programme is also investing additional funding in 500 projects for new and refurbished school buildings. This approach is working, with over 95% of school building surveyed since 2017 being found in good condition. 

Recent cases of RAAC identified in July has meant the Government has acted swiftly to change the assessment of the risk that RAAC poses to building safety. In light of these, the Department has rightly prioritised the safety of all pupils and staff in these buildings, and made the difficult decision to inform the 104 schools with reported RAAC that steps will need to be taken where there are identified areas of RAAC. The vast majority will remain open to all children as normal on their existing site, because only a small part of the site is affected. A minority will need to partially, or fully, relocate to alternative accommodation while mitigations are put in place because of the extent to which RAAC is present. 

“Unfortunately, a number of these schools are in Essex with a small number in Harlow. Temporary arrangements are already being arranged by the schools for pupils, either to relocate children in different classrooms, other on-site buildings, or into alternative spaces. In the schools affected, there may be a few days delay to the start of term, but this will be confirmed by the schools with the parents and avoided wherever possible.

To be clear, the Government will provide funding for essential works to remove immediate risk, and, where necessary, the provision of temporary buildings. Each school affected has been assigned a Department for Education Caseworker to support them through the process and ensure that disruption for pupils, parents and staff remains minimal and learning is maintained. 

“I was informed of this information yesterday, and have since held meetings and discussions with the Schools Rebuilding Minister, Baroness Barran and Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Tony Ball, who has pledged to support Harlow schools in every way he can. I have also contacted Harlow’s affected schools to offer my full support going forwards and have spoken with some governors and senior staff at the schools.

I will continue to work hard for Harlow and do all I can to help. I am sorry that this situation has occurred for the parents, children and incredible Heads, teachers and support staff affected by this. However, the safety of pupils and staff must be the number one priority.  

“The schools have been, and will continue to communicate directly with parents to provide information on plans ahead of the start of term, and should any Harlow resident wish to contact me about this, please do not hesitate to do so. I will of course, provide updated information as soon as I have it’. 

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22 Comments for MP Robert Halfon issues statement on closure of Harlow schools due to safety concerns:

2023-09-01 13:04:11

Robert Halfon was a part of the government that chose to cut Labour's school rebuilding program when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. He was part of the government that essentially ignored warnings about RAAC in 2018.

Ian Cooper
2023-09-01 13:45:33

Shame on you Mark that this is what you choose to comment on - rather than support for the schools, kids and parents affected. I see you've chosen to ignore the fact that Labour were in power for the majority of the period and did nothing to support. Unlike this Government, who have been working hard to help schools and take difficult decisions to prioritise people's safety.

James Leppard
2023-09-01 13:50:42

Mark, how does what you claim tally with Robert Halfon's statement? Quote: "This Government has been working closely with schools since 2018 when it first published a warning note with the Local Government Association". Quote: "The Government has provided over £15 billion since 2015 to support the school estate and keep schools and other educational settings in good working order, including £1.8 billion committed for this year alone". Your comments appear completely at odds with his statement.

2023-09-01 14:21:56

And yet, and yet Mr Leppard and Mr Cooper… here we are in 2023.. with Harlow schools being closed and brand new replacement schools needing rebuilding the week before a new term. Never mind the buck passing and blame tennis the Harlow residents are being subjected to from the school play ground “political debate” from both sides (now almost on a daily basis due to the extraordinary levels of incompetence that are coming to light). The point is this latest mess has happened after 13 years of Conservative government, you have nowhere…I repeat nowhere to hide . Take the responsibility as the governing party, for goodness sake! We need change, and the sooner the better.

2023-09-01 14:48:23

Political tennis, I like that. Or political football maybe? Commentary so far would be something like ..........Mark kicks off and has the ball taken off him by Ian cooper, who goes off at a tangent and passes it to James Leppard who has a hissy fit and wets himself. The game restarts with Tiredoffailedpoloitcalnorms who passes to Councillor Vince who scores. Lab 1 - Con 0. Come on its Friday afternoon, have a chuckle.........

2023-09-01 14:53:45

James, if Mr Halfon has been working closely with schools on this issue since 2018, why have so many schools been closed only a.day or two before.school starts. Or are you saying Mr Halfon is entirely ineffective?

2023-09-01 15:23:23

Phil 👏 😄…indeed, one has to laugh ..

Mark Lavender
2023-09-01 15:47:05

If the private sector requires around 6 decent sized companies genuinely competing with each other to make market economics work effectively, how does that transpose when it comes to democratic processes like voting? It appears Harlow will be the usual 2 horse race. And please don't get me started on first past the post... The only 'post' should be 50% + 1 of eligible voters.

Cliff Taylor
2023-09-01 17:42:14

The back and forth of blaming each other is aggrevating, boring and ultimately pointless. BUT our country right now: Schools falling down Hospitals on verge of collapse Train drivers and doctors on strike Prisons overcrowded and decrepit Court backlog NHS wait list through the floor Cost of everything sky high Economy up the creek And more and more.. I choose to live here. I love it here. I'm proud to be English and from Harlow I choose to bring my kids up here. But if its a business you blame the boss. If its a ship you blame the captain. If its a country you blame the government. If Labour are rubbish too, then get them out too but for God's sake it can't get any worse than this!!

2023-09-01 18:46:33

Dear Phil, as you probably know, the only goals that Harlow Labour scores (I make no judgment regarding the rest of the country ) are own goals. The Amazon warehouse in Katherines being a case in point as was the failure to acquire Terminus House for peanuts to avoid the present debacle, or the huge sums wasted on consultants fees at the former Listef House site, it the zero regeneration of the Town Centre. I could go on. I am not saying that the present Conservative administration is ideal: they are not, but we have to look at what is offer and on that basis, Labour is not a viable option. They have no vision, no understanding, no enterprise or imagination. They are prisoners of Far Left dogma and anti-Brexit nonsense, that they seek to conceal. They are unworthy of this town and its aspirations.

2023-09-01 19:10:00

Mr Halfon has said the government has provided £15 billion but they are usually so quick to tell us the government has no money and they don’t we the taxpayer are funding all of this. All of the waste and contracts for mates means higher taxes and is why we are paying the most in 70 years. Everything in this country is now broken including the schools.

2023-09-01 20:12:59

Oh Maggie my dear….calm down. I really seem to have hit a nerve. In this day and age it’s completely acceptable to speak your mind as yourself without pressure from others. You don’t have to be so hi vis to impress others, like others do. We all know that behind that hard exterior, is a portfolio holder who really wants to agree with councillor vince. So pop your folder down, and take a walk to the other side where a warm welcome awaits, and who knows a new folder could be yours next year!!

2023-09-01 20:21:37

Dear Margaret, the common theme here is that war all seem to be saying us that None , I repeat None, of the the current options are fit for purpose. The concern is that re-election of the current shower of leadership provides them with the mandate to continue making the catastrophic decisions and outcomes we are all experiencing. The current options BOTH need the proverbial kick up the behind to understand what they are currently offering is NOT GOOD ENOUGH! The arrogance of the current incumbants is quite breathtaking and quite frankly in itself sufficient to justify getting rid..To contemplate their re-election (at council or national level) simply re-in forces and empowers their profligate behaviour. While I share your concern about the alternatives ..the pressing issue is WE need change.. NOW and all political sides need to get that message as soon as possible.. Take a breath look around… things should be better than this.. Our politicians are not delivering… we need to show them they need to do better. Have a great weekend at the end of the day , as Phil says, we need to hang in there, have a chuckle… goodness knows we’ve got enough Clowns out there! 🤡

James Gamble
2023-09-01 22:59:30

Mr Halfon talks os successive Government's, what he doesn't mention is all those Governments are Conservative. The problem with RAAC was first found to be a risk when a school roof collapsed in 2017. Tories have been in Government since 2010.

David Forman
2023-09-02 01:39:56

Councillor James Leppard is correct. The evidence comes a National Audit Office report published in June this year. On page 8 it says: DfE has been considering RAAC as a potential issue since late 2018 following a school safety incident. Between then and early 2021, it worked with other bodies to issue warning notes, expanded its data collection programme, and issued a guide for identifying RAAC. In March 2022, DfE sent all responsible bodies a questionnaire asking whether their buildings contained RAAC. It is now focusing on around 14,900 schools with buildings constructed between 1930 and 1990. As at May 2023, around 6,300 (42%) of these schools had told DfE they had completed work to identify RAAC. Through this, and wider work, DfE had identified 572 schools that may contain RAAC. It is working with these schools to confirm mitigations are in place for pupil and staff safety. A specialist will assess all schools with suspected RAAC, and DfE has allocated £6 million for 600 assessments by December 2023. By May 2023, specialists had completed 196 assessments and confirmed the presence of RAAC in 65 schools, of which 24 required immediate action. In May 2023, DfE announced that, where RAAC is present in schools, it would provide funding to ensure that it does not pose an immediate risk. See report at https://www.nao.org.uk/reports/condition-of-school-buildings/#downloads

2023-09-02 07:16:41

Dear James, if this was so tightly under control as you suggest, then, why are our embattled heads and teachers scrabbling around a week before the new term to find alternative solutions/ accommodation for the schools affected? Yes clearly a DofE issue, but under control and watch the current government (—and Mr Halfons role in that government ) ! I see the council leader is bemoaning Labour’s annoying but inevitable crowing about the utter shambles, but you and I know, if this was an announcement for a New School, Hospital, or even the Fabled redevelopment of the former GSK site, Mr Halfon and Mr Swords would be front and centre in this esteemed forum claiming full credit. Again, the hypocrisy is breathtaking!

Mr Derek Clark
2023-09-02 07:35:14

Funny how people forget how the Labour party were thrown out of power by there own supporters due to the country being in total turmoil, a situation caused by there lack of credible Government members able to fathom out how to save a sinking ship. Let's not forget COVID put this country into a spin and now war in Ukraine has made us all pull our belts in, it's not the Government fault that these events have put the economy under strain. But I would like you all to remember how the Labour party lost control of the country's finances and done so in such a way as to also lose its entire party of followers who voted Conservative so as to record the greatest defeat ever recorded. As for the statement made by Mr Haflon, it seams a fair and reasonable account of the past history and as he has said, the Government are now in place to close one school and part of another here in Harlow and carry out the work required. Had it been Labour there would have been no funds available due to a lack of any idea what so ever.

Nick Gunning
2023-09-02 08:27:27

Sorry, but Essex County Council has been responsible for all these school buildings since the 1950s. The over intimate relations between Mr Halfon's party and builders and speculators needs to be explored when this latest crisis has been dealt with. The problem needs to be addressed first, before it becomes a catastrophe. As with covid, there have been copious warnings, strategies worked out and then nothing until a few days before the autumn term. The panels involved may well be ceilings of swimming pools and gyms among other things. It's amazing that Essex's parsimony that leaves us with potholes that are almost national monuments, hasn't injured a class of infants!

Lee Knight
2023-09-02 09:53:25

When will people understand that there hasn't been a Labour party in power since 1979!!!!!

Staff Reporter
2023-09-02 11:41:21

You may have overlooked the period 1997 to 2010.

2023-09-02 14:26:28

Honestly Robert should be ashamed of himself for this and the other week

Stephen Archer
2023-09-03 11:08:51

I just heard Chancellor Jeremy Hunt say Michael Gove as Education Secretary (2010-2014) cut the cost of building new schools so that more money would be available for repairs. But clearly the problem of RAAC in schools was not properly addressed. It seems they failed to fix the roof when the sun was shining (literally) i.e. when the DfE had "more money for repairs", than face difficult structural problems until a school roof collapsed in 2021 (injuring 15 children and their teacher). It does seem pretty typical of this chaotic unprofessional Conservative administration that they should take risks in order to save money. And (excuse puns) they've taken the gamble, rolled the dice and put all the eggs in one basket. They hoped for the best, went for the cheap and cheerful and now the chickens have come home to roost. So we end up with old schools falling down and new ones like SFGC having to be demolished because its unsafe. People have an absolute right to demand that Government act responsibly especially in regards to children. It seems even in this basic requirement, the Conservatives fail.

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