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Crumbling concrete at four new London schools with secondary shut down


Crumbling concrete at four new London schools with secondary shut down

A further 27 schools were added to the government’s list of schools identified as having reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) on site.

It brings the number of schools affected to 174 – an increase of 18 per cent since the initial list of 147 schools was published last month.

Four new London schools were named, including Stepney All Saints Secondary school which is now fully closed with all pupils learning remotely.

Ark John Keats academy in Enfield, Kingsbury High school in Kingsbury and Mulberry Stepney Green Mathematics and Computing College in Stepney Green were also named but are open as normal.

Officials said they are checking hundreds of schools every week. Scores of schools have already been told to fully or partly close and around 22,000 pupils in England are receiving a mix of face-to-face and remote learning because of Raac.

Tuesday’s list suggests 24 schools in England have had to offer some remote learning because of Raac issues.

The Department for Education said 148 of the 174 education settings confirmed to have collapse-risk concrete are offering full-time, face-to-face learning to all pupils.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “We are taking a cautious approach so every parent in England can be reassured their child is safe in their school.

“School and local leaders deserve huge credit for making sure the vast majority of settings with confirmed Raac are continuing to offer pupils face-to-face learning – including all of the 147 schools initially identified two weeks ago.

“We will continue to work closely with affected schools and provide both expert and financial support to minimise disruption and keep staff and children safe.”

Hundreds of surveys have been carried out in schools across England to determine the extent of the problems caused by the building material.

Raac is a lightweight material that was used mostly in flat roofing, but also in floors and walls, between the 1950s and 1990s. It is a cheaper alternative to standard concrete and has a lifespan of about 30 years.

Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Geoff Barton welcomed an updated list but accused the government of being on the back foot.

Some schools were still dealing with “huge logistical issues” and “we haven’t got a timescale of when this will be sorted out”, he said.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said a “clear plan” was needed to deal with the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) problem and it was a symptom of “years of neglect and underinvestment”.

He said: “The 27 schools additionally identified today will all be working tirelessly to make sure children get the education they deserve despite the disruption,” he said.

“But we still need a real sense of a clear plan not just to put short-term mitigation measures in place, but to properly repair or replace buildings so they are fit for purpose.

“Propping up ceilings with metal poles is clearly not a serious option in the medium or long term.”

London Oratory School in Fulham and The Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls in Ealing were previously identified.

It comes as MPs on Tuesday questioned the Department for Education (DfE) about its response to the crisis.

School system minister Baroness Barran and the DfE’s top official, permanent secretary Susan Acland-Hood, faced questioning by the cross-party Education Select Committee about the situation.

Education Committee chairman Robin Walker said: “Both I and my cross-party colleagues have heard loudly and clearly the distress and anxiety that this crisis is causing to families and staff at the 100 or more schools that are affected by Raac.

“We share the feeling of urgency to establish how this situation developed, how and when it can be resolved, and what lessons need to be learnt.”

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