School building closure: More schools could be affected by RAAC as further buildings surveyed
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The decision to close over 100 buildings at schools throughout England due to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) has raised concerns that more schools may be affected as surveying work continues, according to the schools minister.
A total of 156 schools across the country have been notified about the dangers of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), a move that could potentially threaten the opening of schools next week for the start of the new term.
Of the figure, just 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.
This week, the department has contacted all 104 further settings where RAAC is currently confirmed to be present without mitigations in place, to ask them to vacate spaces or buildings that are known to contain RAAC.
But Nick Gibb has given an assurance to parents that this shouldn’t be a cause of concern as RAAC only applies only in the period between the 1950s and the 1990s - so schools built or extended before that period or afterwards, which is about half the school estate, will not even be considered.
He told GB News: “The issue is any extensions or schools built in that period, and that’s where we’ve been focusing our surveys and evidence-gathering since 2022, so we know where RAAC is in the school estate.
“It’s in 156 schools. There may be more after that as these questionnaires continue to be surveyed and we continue to do more surveying work.”
Asked if parents should worry during the wait for more survey results, Mr Gibb said: “No, they shouldn’t worry. Parents will be informed by the school. We were speaking to schools yesterday, some more today, and then schools are telling parents what action they are taking.”
He added: “We now are taking a cautious approach. It is a very cautious approach based on a number of cases that emerged over the summer.”
Mr Gibb also said the decision to close the buildings at risk from RAAC could not have been taken earlier. He told GB News: “We took the decision as soon as the evidence emerged. We were proactively seeking that evidence, unlike any other governments around the world.
“We take this issue very seriously and as that evidence emerged, we discussed it with experts. We worked out what the consequences would be for schools. This happened in the summer. It could have happened in the coming November. It could have happened during term time. It just so happened that it happened over this summer.”
Seven hospitals to be rebuilt
The Government is rebuilding seven hospitals due to issues related to “extensive RAAC” following a survey across the public sector. Asked on BBC Breakfast if other buildings could be affected, Mr Gibb said: “Right across the public sector, we are surveying the estate.
“You’ve heard of a court closing at Harrow. We are taking action, of course, in the hospital sector as well. Hospitals are very large buildings and they have teams of very expert maintenance people monitoring the building the whole time.
“They use propping where they identify RAAC and also we are rebuilding seven hospitals because of extensive RAAC in those hospitals.”