Expert explains why Raac is more dangerous than standard concrete
About 1,500 more schools in England could potentially contain crumbling concrete, the education secretary has said.
Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, told the BBC that around 10 per cent – or 1,500 English schools – are yet to return the surveys sent out by the Department for Education to identify RAAC in buildings.
Elsewhere, the government is coming under increasing pressure to publish a full list of the schools affected.
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It was also claimed that the prime minister was warned of a “critical risk to life” from crumbling schools in 2021 when he was chancellor.
Labour’s shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said it is “vital” that the government publish the list of all RAAC-constructed buildings that are dangerous “as soon as possible”.
Ms Keegan has vowed to publish a list of the schools affected by the concrete crisis this week.
Watch: Hot mic records Gillian Keegan saying others ‘have been sat on their a***s’ amid schools Raac crisis
Education secretary Gillian Keegan was caught on camera saying others “have been sat on their a***s” amid the Raac crisis.
She also shared frustration about not being thanked for doing a “f***ing good job dealing with the crisis.
The comments were picked up while the education secretary was still wearing a microphone after an interview with ITV News.
Hot mic records Gillian Keegan saying others ‘have been sat on their a***s’ amid schools Raac crisis
Martha Mchardy4 September 2023 14:05
‘Extremely difficult’ to identify crumbling concrete that is leading to school closures, says expert
It is “extremely difficult” to identify the crumbling concrete that is leading to the closure of schools, according to Dr John Roberts, who was president of the Institution of Structural Engineers in the early 2000s.
“I think you need to have quite an amount of structural engineering knowledge to identify this material,” he told the World At One.
“It’s not normally directly visible.”
Asked whether there needs to be a wider audit of public buildings, he said: “I can’t see why they are unlikely to be limited just to schools. They’re quite likely to be in a whole range of other public and perhaps private commercial buildings.
“But typically they provide the structure for a flat roof, so that would be the place that you would start looking for it if you wanted to be sure.”
Asked whether manufacturers of the material should be held to account, he said they have all gone out of business and no longer exist.
Martha Mchardy4 September 2023 13:54
Sunak must ‘come clean’ about school repair decisions, says Labour
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said Rishi Sunak must “come clean” about decisions he took on the school repairs budget.
The Labour frontbencher said the PM had now revealed what many parents feared – that the crisis “affects many more schools than they were initially led to believe”.
Ms Phillipson – who has kept her job in the reshuffle – said: “The decisions he took directly as chancellor to drastically cut the number of schools to be rebuilt are there in black and white, in a spending review he signed off, and have put children directly at risk from this dangerous form of concrete, which should have been replaced.”
“It’s time that this Conservative government – including the prime minister, came clean about which schools are affected, what they knew about this dangerous concrete, and the decisions they took which have seen more than a hundred close.
If they don’t, Labour will force a vote to release the information in the House of Commons.”
Adam Forrest4 September 2023 13:40
Capital spending on schools has fallen, says top economists
The respected Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) think tank said the average capital spending on schools has fallen by around a quarter in real-terms since the mid-2000s – and is 50 per cent below its 2010 peak.
Spending on school buildings is low in historical terms and low compared with levels of need,” said IFS research fellow Luke Sibieta.
The National Audit Office reported that the Department for Education calculated it needed about £5.3bn per year from 2021 to 2025 in order to maintain school buildings and mitigate risks.
It instead requested about £4bn per year based on the rate at which it could increase spending. HM Treasury allocated only about £3.1bn per year.
Martha Mchardy4 September 2023 13:35
No 10 rejects claim Sunak cut school repairs budget
Downing Street has rejected the claim made by Jonathan Slater – who served as top civil servant at the Department for Education (DfE) for four years until August 2020 – that Rishi Sunak halved the schools repairs budget in 2021.
Mr Slater said the DfE got funding to repair 100 a year while he was the senior official, which was then cut to 50 by Mr Sunak when he was chancellor. But Mr Sunak has said 50 a year was “completely in line with what we have always done.”
Asked about the claim, Mr Sunak’s official spokesman said: “One of the first things he did when he became chancellor was announced the new school rebuilding programme which committed to 500 school projects over 10 years.
“That’s 50 schools a year – that was delivered in 2020. That was reaffirmed in 2021. That was not reduced in that sense.”
Asked if the government allowed affordability to overrule need, the PM’s spokesman said: “No.”
No 10 also said the repairs work would come out of the DfE’s capital spending budget, rather than any new money from the Treasury.
Adam Forrest4 September 2023 13:30
Review of concrete risk in Scotland will take ‘some months’, says Yousaf
First minister Humza Yousaf has said a desk-based review of collapse-prone concrete will likely take “some months”, but has stressed that mitigations will be put in place where there is risk.
The Scottish Government confirmed that reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) was found in 35 schools across Scotland, with local authorities in the process of checking other buildings.
But that review would take some time to complete, the First minister has said.
Mr Yousaf said: “It was important to do the desk-based review, but it’s also fair to say that where NHS sites, in particular, feel there needs to be a physical investigation, then there will be a physical investigation if that’s required.
“Given the size of the estate we’re looking at, not just the NHS but the public sector estate, it will take some months to complete that fully.
“But, of course, it’s not a binary, it’s an evolving picture,” he added, claiming that “appropriate mitigations” will be put in place when the concrete is found.
The First minister’s comments come the day after one of his ministers said there was “no immediate risk” to the public concerning Raac.
Speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Show, Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray said: “At the moment, there is no immediate risk to people using these buildings and that is why we continue to support our local authority partners, NHS boards and others, that have Raac in their buildings to ensure that remains the case, and if there are issues to be resolved, that mitigations are taken to ensure people’s safety.”
Martha Mchardy4 September 2023 13:22
Concrete crisis could influence which schools parents choose for children, says headteacher
Luke Whitney, headteacher at Mayflower Primary School in Leicester, which is partially closed due to Raac, also said that the issue could influence which schools parents choose for their children.
The school is one of the highest-performing in the country, with Mr Whitney adding that the challenge for his staff was to ensure that despite the logistical changes caused by Raac, the quality of education remained the same.
He said: “As professional educators, we need to make sure that we do all we can to ensure consistency and high-quality education for our children.
“I think the difficulty if you compare this to what happened during Covid, all schools were in the same position, now it’s a very small number of schools. It could be the case that those schools are being viewed as a less favourable option than a school to parents than a school that doesn’t have Raac.
“So what we need to do is to put all our efforts into maintaining the quality of education, the standards our children reach, as we are one of the highest performing schools in the country.
“That becomes our challenge, and resilience is all about giving children a sense of agency, helping children to recognise that they are living through a moment in history and that all of the grown-ups and the community are there to support them to do their best, and I have every confidence in our children.”
Martha Mchardy4 September 2023 13:15
Downing Street denies Sunak responsible for crumbling schools
Asked if Rishi Sunak accepted partial blame for the crumbling concrete row, Downing Street defended his record.
Mr Sunak “set out a significant, funded programme of school rebuilding when he became chancellor and maintained that in 2021”, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.
“At the same time, he invested £5 billion to help children catch up from lost learning caused by Covid.
“What we have seen over a number of years, and indeed decades, is our understanding of the challenges posed by Raac evolve and as the expert advice has changed so has the Government altered its approach.
“That’s what you saw in advance of the September term starting.”
Matt Mathers4 September 2023 12:39
Durham mother ‘devastated’ daughter not returning to school as expected
A mother in Durham said she was “absolutely devastated” to learn that her daughter would not be returning to school as expected because it had been constructed using reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), saying “that means juggling childcare, juggling work”.
Jill Simpson, 51, received an email on Friday from the school trust advising St Leonard’s Catholic School would not be reopening as planned because a survey found RAAC panels had been used in its construction. The school later confirmed teaching would be done online for the foreseeable future.
Ms Simpson, whose daughter is starting Year 10, told the PA news agency: “I think the government should have jumped on this as soon as they found out. As soon as Raac was found in the schools, there should have been things put in place.
“I just think we could have heard something sooner. Why wait until literally four days before they are due to go back to school? It’s not fair on the children not to know where they stand.
“My daughter’s grades are slipping due to loss of school and teachers’ strikes and Covid, so we now have to get a private tutor for maths for her to start with to bump her grades back up.”
Matt Mathers4 September 2023 11:48
More parents at Crossflatts Primary School in Bradford ‘happy’ at children returning
One mother, who did not want to be identified, said: “They’ve just closed down sections and are using Portakabins, and they’re using the hall too.
“We’re as happy as we can be with the situation. It’s not the school’s fault and it’s just a relief that they’re back in.”
Another mother said: “The head has done an amazing job keeping everyone informed.
“And we’ve got WhatsApp groups for each year, which has meant everything has gone as smooth as it can realistically.
“I think it would’ve been a different matter if kids had had to be taken to a different school or taught at home. Let’s just be thankful for that.”
Matt Mathers4 September 2023 11:25