Tory minister Nick Gibb refuses to say how many schools were ‘unsafe’ in concrete scandal
Disruption to schools due to unsafe concrete could continue until 2025, parents have now been warned.
Patrick Moore’s daughter attends Crossflats Primary School in Bradford, one of the schools affected by reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).
He said parents were emailed “48 hours ago” to say RAAC was found in some parts of the school’s building, but the headteacher said the school would reopen as “normal” next week.
Rather than close the whole school, only parts of the buiding will be off-limits.
“They are losing some computer rooms and cooking facilities, we’ve been told,” he told Sky News, “so they’ll set up terrapins on some of the playing fields.”
One parent has told Sky they were warned “disruption will continue until 2025, or they may have to go to a new location altogether”.
The Department for Education (DfE) has told 104 schools and colleges to partially or fully close buildings just as pupils prepared to return after the summer holidays.
Thousands of pupils now risk having to start the year taking lessons online or in temporary accommodation as some schools will be forced to shut completely.
What is RAAC concrete? How to tell if school buildings are at risk of collapse
But what is aerated concrete, and why is it such a risk?
Alexander Butler reports:
Eleanor Noyce1 September 2023 23:30
The RAAC concrete ‘ticking time bomb’ that schools were warned about years ago
Last year, construction experts warned RAAC was a “ticking time bomb” and estimated around “half” of the four million non residential buildings in the UK were affected by the material.
So when was the material first used, when was it first flagged as a danger, and what was done about it?
Alexander Butler reports:
Eleanor Noyce1 September 2023 22:30
Concrete closure list: What schools will have to close because of crumbling RAAC?
Pupils across the country will be forced to resume their studies either online or in temporary facilities after the government ordered more than 100 schools to close immediately following fears over a type of concrete, described as “80 per cent air” and “like an Aero Bar”.
Known as reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), the potentially dangerous material was used to construct schools, colleges, and other buildings between the Fifties and mid-Seventies in the UK, but has since been found to be at risk of collapse.
In total, the government said 156 schools were found to contain RAAC, of which 104 require urgent action while 52 have already received repair works. Some 35 schools have been impacted in Scotland, Sky News reports, though no announcement has been made on closures yet.
Eleanor Noyce1 September 2023 21:32
Scottish government confirms collapse risk concrete present at 35 schools
The Scottish government has confirmed Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (Raac) has been found in 35 schools across Scotland.
The material is a lightweight concrete used from the 1950s up to the mid-1990s which is being assessed after it was linked to the collapse of the roof at Singlewell Primary School in Kent in 2018.
On Friday evening, the Scottish government said it has “sought to reassure ministers” that mitigation is in place to avoid disruption at the 35 schools.
Pupils at the 104 schools south of the border will be placed in temporary accommodation amid the presence of Raac.
Earlier on Friday, the Scottish government confirmed work was under way to fully understand the presence of Raac across the school estate in Scotland, with local authorities expected to prioritise remedial work.
Figures obtained by the Scottish Liberal Democrats in May claimed the substance was present in at least 37 schools in Scotland.
Ministers have also stressed pupils will not be taught in the parts of buildings where the concrete is considered a risk.
A Scottish government spokesperson said: “This is an issue that all parties are taking seriously and reviews of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (Raac) in property have been conducted by local authorities, NHS Scotland and other public sector organisations for some time so we can all fully understand the scope of Raac, including in the school estate.
“We have now received returns from all local authorities and councils have sought to reassure ministers that in the small number of schools where they have identified Raac, appropriate mitigation plans have already been put in place to ensure the safety of pupils and staff, including ensuring that pupils are not being taught in parts of buildings at risk due to Raac.
“Ministers are clear that they expect local authorities to continue to monitor the situation and we will continue to work closely with them in their response to the challenge.”
Eleanor Noyce1 September 2023 21:00
Government urged to ‘provide clarity’ on scale of Raac risk across public sector
The government is being urged to provide clarity on the impact of a lightweight concrete prone to collapse on hospitals and other public buildings after schools were told to shut affected classrooms.
Experts have warned that the crisis over reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) could extend beyond the education sector, with healthcare settings, courts and offices also potentially at risk.
Opposition parties are demanding information about the scale of Raac in other buildings, with Labour calling for an “urgent audit”.
It comes after 104 schools and colleges were told by the Department for Education to partially or fully close buildings just as pupils prepare to return after the summer holidays.
Though not confirmed, it is estimated that around 24 schools in England have been told to close entirely because of the presence of Raac, the PA news agency understands, and schools minister Nick Gibb has admitted more could be asked to shut classrooms.
Mr Gibb said that a collapse of a beam that had been considered safe over the summer sparked an urgent rethink on whether buildings with the aerated concrete could remain open.
But the problem could be far wider, with other buildings at risk of “sudden and catastrophic collapse” if Raac is not removed, specialists said.
Matt Byatt, president of the Institution of Structural Engineers, said that any high-rise buildings with flat roofs constructed between the late 1960s and early 1990s may contain Raac.
He said expert bodies had warned government departments about the dangers of the material in 2018 – adding that “everyone was aware” of the problem.
“Luckily it is being dealt with now. You can’t wait for people to get hurt before making these kinds of decision,” he said.
Professor Chris Goodier, professor of construction engineering and materials at Loughborough University, said: “The scale of problem is much bigger than schools.
“It also covers much of the building stock in the country. This also includes health, defence, justice, local government, national government, and also a lot of the private sector.”
The government is facing questions over why it did not act sooner over schools, and opposition parties are demanding information about the extent to which Raac affects other buildings.
Eleanor Noyce1 September 2023 20:45
Schools forced to shut or tape off rooms over collapse-risk concrete
Schools across the country have been forced to close or tape off sections of buildings days before the new term starts after aerated concrete was identified.
Parents were informed of the emergency measures taken by the schools and colleges, which have had to partially or fully close buildings because of the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac), which could suddenly collapse.
A headteacher at one school for children with special needs had to call parents to inform them the school would not be opening just days before the new term started.
Louise Robinson, headteacher of Kingsdown School in Southend, Essex, called parents of students, who are aged between three and 14, on Thursday to tell them the news that the school will be closed next week due to the aerated concrete.
It comes amid chaos across the country as 104 schools and colleges have been told by the Department for Education (DfE) to partially or fully close buildings just as students prepare to return after the summer holidays.
The Government has not identified the schools but the list also includes: Parks Primary, Mayflower Primary School and Willowbrook Mead Primary Academy in Leicester; Cranbourne College in Basingstoke; Crossflatts Primary School and Eldwick Primary School in Bingley, near Bradford; Abbey Lane Primary School in Sheffield; Scalby School in Scarborough; St Leonard’s Catholic School in Durham; Winter Gardens Academy in Essex; and Corpus Christi Catholic School in Brixton, London.
Ms Robinson said: “Instead of preparing to welcome our students back to class, we’re having to call parents to have very difficult conversations about the fact the school is closed next week.
“We’re hoping that a solution can be found that allows us to open the school, at least partially, but that entirely relies on ensuring the safety of our pupils and staff, and approval by DfE.”
The school’s main building has been ordered to close, which has special equipment inside that the students need and cannot be accessed.
Eleanor Noyce1 September 2023 20:30
Concrete closure list: What schools will have to close because of crumbling RAAC?
Pupils across the country will be forced to resume their studies either online or in temporary facilities, after the government ordered more than 100 schools to close immediately following fears over a type of concrete, described as “80 per cent air” and “like an Aero Bar”.
Known as reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), the dangerous material was used to construct schools, colleges, and other buildings between the Fifties and mid-Seventies in the UK, but has since been found to be at risk of collapse.
Eleanor Noyce1 September 2023 20:00
More schools may have to shut over concrete fears amid warning chaos could continue for years
The government has admitted that the number of schools forced to close over dangerous crumbling concrete is likely to rise – as teachers and parents were braced for years of disruption over the issue.
As school leaders prepared for a weekend dash to inspect more buildings and put in temporary measures before next week’s back-to-school rush, minister Nick Gibb admitted there “may be more” schools, nurseries and colleges affected by the chaos, on top of the 156 already identified.
He also conceded that some parents are still in the dark about whether their children will return to classrooms after the summer break, with some schools still unaware they will have to close.
Eleanor Noyce1 September 2023 19:30
Bridget Phillipson: Ministers knew about dodgy concrete in schools – but did nothing
The start of a new school year means new uniforms, books and school shoes all being readied for the return to classrooms next week. Children should be excitedly looking forward to getting back together with friends and learning together after the summer break. Instead, just days before children are due to return, schools have been told to close due to unsafe, crumbly concrete.
Parents will understandably have a sense of deja vu. At the start of the school term in January 2021, primary school children went back to school for just one day before being sent home. Now, at the start of another school term, Conservative incompetence is keeping children at home again.
The rot started with Michael Gove in 2010 when he scrapped Labour’s schools rebuilding programme, writes shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson:
Eleanor Noyce1 September 2023 19:00
Disruption, uncertainty and anxiety: Inside one of first schools closed over crumbling concrete scandal
Because of a quirk of tradition, the summer holidays end a week earlier in Leicester than in the rest of the country.
“My understanding is they literally evacuated the place,” said parent Raj Kaur on Friday. “The first most parents knew about it was when we arrived for pick up. All the children were out on the field. It was awful. Children were crying. My first thought was ‘has something terrible happened?’”
To some extent, something terrible had.
Eleanor Noyce1 September 2023 18:30