More than 100 schools with collapse-risk concrete to have blocks rebuilt

More than 100 schools in England with collapse-risk concrete will have blocks rebuilt or refurbished under the Government’s rebuilding programme.

The Department for Education (DfE) has published details on how it will permanently remove reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) from all the affected schools and colleges across the country.

It comes after a school leaders’ union called on the Government to provide more financial support to schools facing ongoing issues as a result of Raac.

The DfE has said that 119 of these schools will have one or more buildings rebuilt or refurbished through the Government’s School Rebuilding Programme as works to remove Raac are more extensive or complex.

A further 110 schools and colleges –  where works will typically be smaller in scale – will receive a grant to help them remove Raac from their buildings.

Five schools and colleges have alternative arrangements in place to address the removal of Raac, the DfE said.

“We will continue to work closely with schools and colleges as we take the next step to permanently remove Raac from affected buildings.”

The DfE has said its Raac identification programme is now complete as 100% of schools and colleges with blocks built in the target era have responded to their questionnaire.

Earlier this week, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), sent an open letter to the Education Secretary calling for schools with Raac to be exempt from Ofsted inspections until they were “fully operational”.

A school or college that has confirmed Raac on site will be eligible for an inspection this term, but they can ask for an inspection to be deferred.

Last month, the ASCL called on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to introduce in his spring Budget a new recovery funding stream – which could be used for catch-up provision – for all the schools affected by Raac.

The union warned in its submission to the Treasury that an “unacceptable” wait for mitigation works at Raac-affected schools meant parents were withdrawing their children and moving them to different schools, and applications for September 2024 for these affected schools were down.

Following the DfE’s announcement on Thursday, Mr Barton said: “We welcome this much-needed clarity on the nature of the work to remove Raac from the schools and colleges affected.

“This is an important step, but it is only one step towards solving this crisis and a number of unanswered questions remain.

“Given the severe pressures on the school estate as a whole, we need assurances that this work will be funded wholly through additional capital expenditure and money will not be diverted from other sources.

“There must also be clear timelines set out for when this work is going to be completed.

“We continue to urge the Government to provide better support for schools while they wait for Raac to be removed, including through the introduction of a new recovery funding stream to enable catch-up provision for pupils whose learning has been impacted.”

“However, there is still a concern that we don’t know the full extent of all the schools affected, as not all surveys have been completed successfully.

“And while dealing with Raac is crucial, we really need to see more ambitious investment from the Government in bringing the schools estate up to scratch overall – from Raac, to asbestos, to general disrepair – they need a plan to tackle all school building issues before they become the next big crisis. That can’t happen without more money from the Treasury.”

Catherine McKinnell, shadow schools minister, said: “After many months of inaction and delay, with children learning in draughty Portakabins and bused to neighbouring schools, it appears the Government may finally have woken up to the need to deal with this crisis.

“The unacceptable delays are symptomatic of a Conservative Government that simply does not prioritise the education and needs of children.

“Ministers still have questions to answer about the timetable for completion of these works to finally bring an end to this chaos.”

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