Gillian Keegan has rowed back on plans to “name and shame” schools that miss the deadline to return a survey on crumbling concrete after teachers’ leaders said the data was given “months ago”.
The education secretary earlier this week ordered school leaders to “get off their backsides” to complete the 5 per cent of surveys that hadn’t been returned.
An email was also sent on Monday evening by education minister Baroness Barran to the responsible bodies for schools that had not completed the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) survey, calling on them to respond by September 8 at the latest.
That email warned that the DfE would “likely … be required to publish information about schools which have Raac, schools which do not, and schools where there is still uncertainty”.
But on Friday, the DfE said it would not publish a list of schools that have not completed the survey.
The department initially suggested it would release the percentage of schools that failed to respond, but later said it would not even make this information public.
The move had sparked claims that it was an attempt to “name and shame” schools.
It prompted a backlash from school leaders and trade unions, with claims that some academy trust and school officials who have been urged by ministers to return the government’s questionnaire had submitted the forms many months ago.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the National Association of Head Teachers have both questioned whether there could be errors within the department’s record keeping.
ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said: “We understand that education minister Baroness Barran has now given an assurance that ‘responsible bodies’ will not be named publicly over supposedly unreturned surveys.
“This assurance has been given after it emerged that many of them have in fact returned these surveys several months ago – and in some cases on repeated occasions – but the Department for Education’s records are inaccurate.
“However, we have not had this assurance directly given to us and we remain concerned. The government’s handling of the Raac crisis has been utterly shambolic.”
The government remains under pressure over the concrete crisis, with concerns about the state of school buildings sparking anxiety about the presence of Raac in other publicly-owned buildings and infrastructure.