September 1, 2023

More than 100 schools to be shut over building collapse scare in UK

More than 100 schools to be shut over building collapse scare in UK

More than 100 schools in England are scrambling to make arrangements after being told to shut buildings with a type of concrete prone to collapse.

The government gave the order just days before the start of the autumn term, according to BBC

Some pupils have already been told they will be learning remotely, in temporary classrooms, or at different schools over the issue.

The government has not said when a list of affected schools will be published, drawing criticism from the Labour Party.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson, who said Labour had not seen the full list, urged ministers to “come clean with parents and set out the full scale of the challenge that we’re facing”.

On Thursday, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said affected schools would contact parents directly, adding: “If you don’t hear, don’t worry”.

Schools found with buildings containing reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) have been told they must introduce safety measures, which could include propping up ceilings.

A “minority” will need to “either fully or partially relocate” to alternative accommodation while those measures are installed, the Department for Education (DfE) has said.

However, the DfE has not given a timeline for replacing the material, which was used until the mid-90s.

According to BBC, Ms Keegan said the government was taking a “cautious approach”, and that “over the summer a couple of cases have given us cause for concern”.

At Willowbrook Mead Primary in Leicester, where arrangements have been made for children from different year groups to attend two different schools, while older pupils will have to use online learning, the head teacher said in a letter to parents: “I appreciate that the timing is far from ideal.”

It is one of many schools affected after the DfE announced on Thursday that any space or area in schools, colleges or nurseries, with confirmed RAAC should no longer be open without “mitigations” being put in place.

This came after the government was made aware of a number of incidents where RAAC failed without warning, not just in school buildings, but elsewhere too.

Ms Keegan said her department’s plan would “minimise the impact on pupil learning and provide schools with the right funding and support they need to put mitigations in place to deal with RAAC”.

But teachers’ unions have criticised the DfE for making the call so close to pupils returning to school.

“It is absolutely disgraceful, and a sign of gross government incompetence, that a few days before the start of term, 104 schools are finding out that some or all of their buildings are unsafe and cannot be used,” National Education Union general secretary Daniel Kebede said.