Essex County Council education boss issues statement over school closures over safety fears

Education / Tue 5th Sep 2023 at 11:59am

Councillor Tony Ball, Essex County Council Cabinet Member for Education Excellence, Lifelong Learning and Employability, said: “Essex is a large county and, collectively, we have responsibility for educating circa 220,000 school aged children and young people, across an estate of circa 550 schools.

“54 schools are currently identified as having known RAAC within Essex, requiring immediate action as a result of the change in Department of Education (DfE) policy made on Thursday 31 August 2023. Up until that date, for schools for which Essex County Council is the responsible body, we had been working with the DfE to manage RAAC in these settings.

“We have been working over a number of years to understand the extent of RAAC across the maintained school education estate and take action when it has been identified.

“Of the 54 schools on the list, 15 are local authority maintained schools. 14 of these schools are able to open next week due to mitigation measures having been put in place. 

“Unfortunately, one maintained school will need to close temporarily due to the severity of the RAAC across the school building. Parents have been communicated to around arrangements for the start of the school term. We are working tirelessly with the school to find an appropriate solution as quickly as possible.

“The remaining 39 schools are academies, for which the academy trust is the responsible body. We have been working closely with academy trusts and the DfE to understand the impact and provide support where necessary.

“The council has always been diligent in ensuring that we have surveyed schools and ensured that when RAAC issues have been identified we have taken necessary action. We are confident that there are no additional maintained schools that have RAAC. In light of changing guidance and the latest information, like many other Local Authorities we will be reviewing our data and undertaking further surveys if necessary to ensure all RAAC is identified and then addressed. We expect academy trusts will do the same.

“I would like to acknowledge that for pupils, parents, school staff and education colleagues at the council this isn’t the start to the Autumn term you expected or will have wanted. I can reassure you that across the council we are doing all we can to support schools to manage the situation and get affected children safely into schools and learning as quickly as possible.”

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