Rishi Sunak, who was accused of not funding a scheme to rebuild outdated classrooms, acknowledged that hundreds more English schools may be harmed by collapsing concrete.
In spite of the Prime Minister’s insistence that 95 percent of England’s schools were unaffected, worries about reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) may still have an effect on more than a thousand of them.
According to Downing Street, the majority of schools would not be impacted and the total number was predicted to be in the hundreds rather than the thousands.
Just days before the start of the fall semester, more than a hundred English schools received the news that they could not completely operate due to safety concerns around the usage of Raac.
Students may be required to attend remote lessons in the style of a pandemic, makeshift classrooms, or other locations.
Mr Sunak said: “New information came to light relatively recently and it’s important that once it had, that the Government acted on it as swiftly as possible.
“Of course I know the timing is frustrating, but I want to give people a sense of the scale of what we are grappling with here: there are around 22,000 schools in England and the important thing to know is that we expect that 95% of those schools won’t be impacted by this.”
If 5% of schools are affected, as Mr. Sunak claimed, that would make 1,100 schools affected.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said : “I think the Prime Minister was providing reassurance to parents, pupils and schools that the vast majority – we believe more than 95% won’t be affected.”
He said Education Secretary Gillian Keegan had set out that “we expect the numbers to be in the hundreds, not thousands” but “while we are still waiting on schools to return their surveys and confirm their specific situations we can’t be more definitive”.
Later on Monday, Ms. Keegan informed MPs that “this week” a list of schools with confirmed use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) would be released.
While Mr. Sunak was chancellor, a former top official at the Department for Education claimed he turned down a request for financing to develop new schools.
Jonathan Slater, who served as the Department of Education’s (DfE) permanent secretary from May 2016 to August 2020, claimed that the Treasury was aware that the schools initiative posed a “critical risk to life” if it was not funded.
Up to 400 schools need to be replaced each year, according to Mr. Slater, who called it “frustrating” because the DfE only received funds for 100 schools when he was the senior official.
However, he claimed to be “optimistic” upon leaving the department that efforts to secure additional funds to construct 200 homes annually would be successful.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The actual ask in the spending review of 2021 was to double the 100 to 200 – that’s what we thought was going to be practical at first instance.
“I thought we’d get it, but the actual decision that the chancellor took in 2021 was to halve the size of the programme.”
However, Mr Sunak argued that 50 schools annually was in keeping with what had happened during the previous ten years.
He told reporters Mr Slater’s attack on his record was “completely and utterly wrong”.
“Actually, one of the first things I did as chancellor, in my first spending review in 2020, was to announce a new 10-year school re-building programme for 500 schools.
“Now that equates to about 50 schools a year, that will be refurbished or rebuilt.
“If you look at what we have been doing over the previous decade, that’s completely in line with what we have always done.”
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “The defining image of 13 years of the Conservative-run education system will be children sat under steel girders to stop the roof falling in.”
She said Mr Sunak “bears huge culpability for his role in this debacle”, adding: “Ministers need to come clean about the number of schools affected, what they knew, and when they knew, about the risks posed by Raac so that parents can be reassured their children are safe at school.”
Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Munira Wilson said: “This bombshell revelation shows the blame for this concrete crisis lies firmly at Rishi Sunak’s door.
“He slashed funding to repair crumbling classrooms when officials said it needed to be increased. Now children and parents across the country are paying the price for this disastrously short-sighted decision.”
Additionally, schools in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are undergoing Raac assessments.
Although it is prevalent in 35 schools, according to the Scottish Government, none of them offer a “immediate risk” to the safety of the students.
Two schools on Anglesey that were scheduled to begin the fall semester on Tuesday will be temporarily closed, according to the Welsh Government.
List of schools affected by concrete safety fears
EAST OF ENGLAND
– Honywood School, Colchester, Essex
Some 22 classrooms have been closed with immediate effect, with year groups doing a mixture of remote and on-site learning.
– Jerounds Primary School, Harlow, Essex
The school will stay open despite Raac being found in the school’s kitchen as it is being strengthened with a steel structure, BBC News reported.
– Katherines Primary Academy, Harlow, Essex
Has reportedly closed its main building.
– Clacton County High School, Essex
On Monday, the school will be closed for all students. It will only be open for Year 7 pupils on Tuesday, with all other children having online lessons. From Wednesday to Friday, the school will be open for Year 7 and Year 11 only, with other cohorts learning online.
– Kingsdown School in Southend, Essex
Louise Robinson, headteacher of Kingsdown School, has said the school will be closed next week due to the aerated concrete.
– East Tilbury Primary School, Thurrock, Essex
Some parts of the school will be closed, with Year 1 pupils moved to share a block with Reception and Year 2 pupils relocated to the sports hall.
– Buckhurst Hill Community Primary School, Essex
The school is closed until Monday September 11 while alternative teaching arrangements are organised.
– Thameside Primary School, Essex
Expects its reopening to be delayed until September 11. Parts of the school have been closed, with a significant number of teaching spaces impacted.
– East Bergholt High School, Colchester, Essex
The school is deciding whether to delay reopening or partially close.
– Thurstable School and Sixth Form, Essex
No students in school on Wednesday, with online learning from home in place. Year 7 is expected to be in school on Thursday, with Year 7, 11, 12 and 13 on-site on Friday, with remote learning for other years.
– The Billericay School, Essex
A number of classrooms will be unavailable while remedial works take place, temporarily reducing the school’s on-site teaching capacity, it has said.
– The Appleton School, Essex
BBC News has reported that the school’s Tower, North and South blocks are being vacated, while Years 8, 9 and 10 are set for online learning from home from Wednesday to Friday.
– Woodville Primary School, Chelmsford, Essex
The school is closed until September 11, BBC News reported.
– Arthur Bugler Primary School, Thurrock, Essex
BBC News reports that the building for Years 4, 5 and 6 will be shut at the start and the new school term could be delayed for these year groups.
– Buckhurst Hill Community Primary School, Essex
The start of term has been delayed until September 11 for all pupils so alternative teaching arrangements can be organised.
– The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School, Essex
No students will be on site on Monday or Tuesday, BBC News reported.
– The Gilberd School, Colchester, Essex
Plans to reopen on September 11 for Years 8–11 and on Tuesday September 12 for Year 7. The school hopes temporary classrooms will be added while work is carried out on its roof.
– St Andrew’s Junior School, Hatfield Peverel, Essex
Will be closed until mid-September at the earliest and temporary classrooms are needed, BBC News reported.
– Hockley Primary School, Essex
Has been closed since June 11 and some year groups are being sent to other schools.
– Ramsey Academy, Halstead, Essex
BBC News has reported that four classrooms are not being used until safety measures are in place.
– Ravens Academy, Clacton-on-Sea, Essex
Expected to be closed on Tuesday and Wednesday.
– Roding Valley High School, Loughton, Essex
Canteen staff are only able to cater to pupils receiving free school meals, with other students urged to bring a packed lunch, BBC News has reported. Some year groups are set to learn from home on Thursday and Friday, it added.
– Tendring Technology College, Frinton Campus, Essex
Students in Years 10, 11 and the Sixth Form, will now start later, on September 11.
– Hadleigh High School, Suffolk
On Friday, the Ipswich school told parents it was affected and “will need to consider delaying reopening or partial closure until the issue has been resolved”.
– Farlingaye High School, Woodbridge, Suffolk
Some classrooms are out of use and it might need to delay reopening.
– Claydon High School, Suffolk
The school in Ipswich is considering delaying reopening or partial closure until the on-site Raac issue has been resolved.
– Thomas Lord Audley School, Colchester, Essex
Areas within the science and maths departments have been deemed unsafe and 10 of 47 classrooms are not in use. Years 8, 9 and 10 will be rotated, with some remote learning for Year 8.
– The Bromfords School, Wickford, Essex
Some 15 classrooms – just over 20% of the school’s total teaching rooms – are now inaccessible to staff and students, as well as a set of student toilets and PE changing rooms, the school said. Year 7 students will still be welcomed on Friday, while new Year 12 students will enrol as normal on Wednesday.
The school said it was confident it could welcome other year groups back from September 11 but this is likely to be on a rotation basis, with remote learning taking place for some students.
– Wyburns Primary School, Rayleigh, Essex
In a letter to parents, the headteachers said the school will be closed while a further intrusive survey is carried out and remote learning will take place.
– The Cherry Tree Academy, Colchester, Essex
A structural engineer is due to inspect the building, with the school closed until September 11, BBC News reported.
– White Hall Academy primary, Clacton, Essex
The school is carrying out surveys and parents were told on September 1 there will be three non-teaching days, BBC News reported.
– Winter Gardens Academy, Canvey Island, Essex
Parts of the school are to be vacated with immediate effect, BBC News reported.
– Mayflower Primary School, Leicester
Mayflower Primary School is one of three schools in Leicester that have been told they have buildings affected by Raac that need to be taken out of use, Leicester City Council has said.
The school found out it was impacted before the summer holidays, the council said.
– Parks Primary School, Leicester
A “large proportion” of Parks Primary School in Leicester was forced to close in June after a survey revealed Raac was used in its construction.
Headteacher Caroline Evans told Channel 4 News: “In June, we were told we had Raac across the whole of our school and it was in a critical condition, which meant that we had to close a large proportion of our school, leaving only open the reception class and two Year 1 classes and two Year 2 classes.”
Ms Evans was photographed with other staff members in a temporary staff room erected in a school corridor on Friday.
– Willowbrook Mead Primary Academy, Leicester
Another affected school, the Willowbrook Mead Primary Academy on the outskirts of Leicester, has said it will be closed on Monday.
– Northampton International Academy, Northampton
According to BBC News, the use of the top floor, including 18 classrooms, has been restricted, while the sixth-form area and a staff room are closed while survey work is done.
– Holy Trinity Catholic Academy, Newark-on-Trent
Issues have been identified on site, but arrangements are being put in place to ensure the school opens as planned next week.
– St Edward’s Catholic Voluntary Primary, Swadlincote, Derbyshire
The school’s reopening has been delayed by a week, BBC News reported.
– Aston Manor Academy, Birmingham
The academy has announced a delayed start to the academic year, with students now not expected on the school site until at least September 11.
– Aylesford School, Warwick
The primary school is not impacted but a significant area of the rest of the school will be closed while works continue. Only Year 7s will be taught onsite on Monday, with Year 12s returning from Wednesday.
– Wood Green Academy, Wednesbury
Some classrooms will be closed until October.
– Donnington Wood Infant School, Telford, Shropshire
Telford and Wrekin Council has said additional safety measures, including extra temporary ceilings, have been installed at the school after Raac was found. It is set to remain open.
– Myton School, Warwick, Warwickshire
Has delayed the start of term after telling parents that many students cannot return until September 11, BBC News reported.
– Outwoods Primary School, Atherstone, North Warwickshire
Warwickshire County Council has said it is the only school on its patch affected by Raac but it will remain open after precautionary measures were already introduced.
– Pershore High School, Worcestershire
A temporary building housing a drama teaching space and costume store may be of Raac construction and has been taken out of use before a specialist survey takes place.
– St Bede’s Catholic School and Byron Sixth Form College, Peterlee, County Durham
On Friday, the school’s headteacher Frances Cessford said that part of the building is out of use while safety measures are put in place.
– St Anne’s Catholic Primary School, Harlow Green, Gateshead
Announced that the school would be temporarily closed on September 2.
– St Benet’s Catholic Primary School, Ouston, County Durham
Announced that the school would be temporarily closed on September 2.
– St Leonard’s Catholic School, Durham
The school announced it would be temporarily closed on September 2.
It said it is planning to use the Radisson hotel for two days this week for sessions for sixth formers.
In a email sent to parents on Monday, which has been seen by the PA news agency, the school said staff had now also toured potential teaching space at the University of Durham.
– Ferryhill School, County Durham
The secondary school has written to parents to tell them the start of the school year will be delayed, with most pupils to be educated remotely from September 11, ITV News has reported.
The start of the new school year will be delayed. New starters would start a week late with the rest being taught online, it said.
– St James Catholic Primary School, Hebburn, South Tyneside
On Saturday, headteacher Francesca Heslop told parents “the school building is out of use while we put safety measures in place” and that it would “unfortunately” also need to be closed on Tuesday.
The school on Monday announced it is also closed on Wednesday “while we finalise arrangements and seek alternative premises”.
– St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School, Darlington
Darlington Borough Council said St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School will not open until September 11 amid safety fears.
– Carmel College, Darlington
Carmel College has told parents that the kitchen and library at the college will be temporarily vacated until further investigations have taken place, Darlington Borough Council has said.
It said the college will remain open but there will be some disruption to classrooms and only a limited break and lunch menu, with pupils from Years 7-11 asked to take a packed lunch for the first week.
– St John Bosco Catholic Primary School, Sunderland
In a letter to parents, the headteacher said the building will need to be closed on Wednesday while alternate arrangements are finalised.
YORKSHIRE AND HUMBER
– Abbey Lane Primary School, Sheffield
Work started in July to replace a roof over the school kitchen after it was identified as containing Raac, Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley Louise Haigh said.
The school is due to reopen on Tuesday and a temporary kitchen has been installed.
– Eldwick Primary School, Bingley, West Yorkshire
Bradford Council has said that access to areas of the school where Raac is present is prohibited.
– Crossflatts Primary School in Bingley, near Bradford
Parts of the school where Raac was found are closed and the plan is to provide temporary classrooms on-site, Bradford Council has said.
– Scalby School, Scarborough
Is not reopening until September 11 and there is expected to be a mix of face-to-face and online home learning. Significant parts of the school are affected and have been taken out of use.
– Holy Family Catholic Secondary School, Keighley, West Yorkshire
P Block and the kitchen have been taken out of use and pupils are set to return to school in phased stages by September 11, BBC News reported.
– Cleeve Park School, Sidcup
BBC News has reported that four classrooms, some admin offices and the gym will be closed.
– St Thomas More Catholic Comprehensive, Eltham
Set to open as planned from Tuesday but the hall, gym, canteen, drama studio and boys’ and girls’ toilets are affected by Raac.
The school plans to open mobile toilet blocks and is hiring a marquee as a space for the students to eat and prepare food.
– Corpus Christi Catholic School in Brixton
Junior school pupils are being relocated to a temporary location after Raac was found in a roof, a statement from August 18 said.
– The Ellen Wilkinson School, Ealing
The science block, old gym, the hall and canteen are being vacated and students may need to bring packed lunches for a short period, according to the i newspaper and BBC News.
Students relying on free school meals will be given vouchers. The school remains open.
– The Link School, Beddington, south London
The secondary site is temporarily closed as Raac has been identified in the school hall. The school hopes to reopen to pupils on Monday September 11.
– St Mary Magdalene and St Stephen’s CE Primary School, Westminster
The school has two classrooms impacted and Year 5 and Year 6 will be moved while the issue is resolved.
– Hornsey School for Girls, north London
Work is taking place on the roof areas of two buildings, BBC News reported.
– London Oratory School, Fulham, London
Raac has been removed during work in the DT Block and the Sixth Form Common Room but is still present in roofing panels elsewhere on the school site. Potential options are being evaluated, BBC News reported.
– St Gregory’s Catholic Science College, Harrow, London
Work is being carried out to prop up the concrete and is expected to be resolved by Tuesday, BBC News reported.
– Cockermouth School, Cumbria
Will open on Tuesday instead of Monday after Raac concrete was found in four corridors, the library and the sports hall.
– St Bernard’s School, Bolton, Greater Manchester
Scaffolding will be put in place to support several areas of the school with Raac, causing “disruption” until the work is completed. The school will open on September 7, but only if safety work is completed in time – otherwise it could reopen on September 11.
– Our Lady’s Catholic High School, Preston, Lancashire
Is reportedly closed on Monday and Tuesday, according to local media and BBC News.
-The Fulwood Academy, Preston, Lancashire, has been closed for two days to allow it to undertake a new survey of the building, Lancashire County Council has confirmed.
The council said no Raac has been identified and the school is closed as a precaution.
– Canon Slade School, Bolton, Greater Manchester
Small areas identified in the school containing Raac are no longer accessible for students or staff.
The school has opened as planned for all students.
– Bispham Endowed Church of England Primary School, Blackpool, Lancashire
The school has closed its hall as a result of the Raac survey, but opened as normal on Monday, Blackpool Council said.
– St William of York Catholic Primary School, Bolton, Greater Manchester
Some classes will have to temporarily relocate to other parts of the school “for a short amount of time”.
Temporary support structures have been put in place and a number of Portakabins have been ordered.
The school hopes to open to as many pupils as possible on September 11, with an update expected on Wednesday.
– Cranbourne College, Basingstoke, Hampshire
Temporary works have already been undertaken to one section of the building to make sure it is safe and another area has been out of use since the beginning of the year, Hampshire County Council said.
The school is expected to open as normal at the start of term.
– St Francis Catholic Primary School in Ascot, Berkshire
Key stage two pupils will be starting the new term being taught in marquees after unsafe concrete was found in its school hall and kitchen, ITV reported.
– St Clere’s School, Stanford-le-Hope, Essex
The high school announced it would be closing most of the main building, affecting a “significant number” of classrooms, according to an update on its website.
The closures will remain in place until “appropriate mitigation measures are established and approved by independent surveyors”, the school said.
– Greenway Junior School, Horsham, West Sussex
The school will reportedly be closed for all pupils on Tuesday.
– Waddesdon School, Buckinghamshire
The restaurant and possibly areas of the Central Block, including the English, history, religious studies, geography, technology, music and drama departments, have been found to have sections of Raac.
Years 9, 10, 11 and 13 will be taught from home, while Years 7, 8 and 12 can attend as planned.
– Thomas Bullock academy school, Shipdham, Norfolk
Norfolk County Council said Raac was found in the school hall. The start of term has been delayed by a day to enable checks to take place.
– St Bartholomew’s Catholic Primary School, Kent
In a letter to parents the headteacher said Raac is present in the school hall, which is closed, and hot lunches will be served in classrooms.
– King Ethelbert School, Birchington, Kent
Parts of the building have been closed but lessons will continue on site, BBC News reported.
– Ysgol David Hughes, Holyhead, Anglesey
– Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi, Menai Bridge, Anglesey
The Welsh Government said on Monday both schools would be temporarily closed for learners so that further safety inspections can be carried out.
The Scottish Government has revealed Raac is present in 35 schools but First Minister Humza Yousaf said: “Mitigations have been put in place to ensure that there is no immediate safety concerns for either the pupils or the staff that work there.”