School buildings in England made with concrete ‘prone to collapse’ forced to shut ahead of new term
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The BBC reported on Thursday (31 August) that more than 100 schools across the country are being contacted about the dangers of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) - in a development which could threaten the opening of schools next week for the start of the new term.
Buildings constructed with the concrete in question must be “taken out of use immediately”, schools have been told, and mitigations should be put in place. According to The Guardian, headteachers have been asked to confirm as soon as possible whether safety measures - such as “propping, failsafing, or strengthening” - have been undertaken.
In the meantime, children should be moved to other teaching spaces for their classes. In official communications seen by The Guardian, the Department for Education acknowledges that “this is likely to cause disruption”, but adds that “the safety of pupils, students, and staff is our priority”.
Ministers have not given a timeline for replacing the RAAC, but schools have called for an “urgent” plan.
It comes after reports emerged earlier this week that scores of schools could be at risk of collapse - as they had been built with “crumbly” RAAC between the 1960s to 1990s, which only has a life expectancy of around three decades.
Meanwhile, a report in June by the National Audit Office (NAO) said that the risk of injury or death from a school building collapse in England was “very likely” - as it warned of the “critical” danger to pupils and staff.
Responding to the reports, MP Bridget Phillipson, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said: “This is an absolutely staggering display of Tory Party incompetence as they start a fresh term by failing our children again.
“Dozens of England’s schools are at risk of collapse with just days before children crowd their corridors. Ministers have been content to let this chaos continue for far too long.
“It’s long past time the Secretary of State got a grip on her department. Labour knows that children can’t get a first class education in a second class school, it’s incredible that the Tories don’t. The next Labour government will ensure schools are fit for purpose and children are safe.”