The schools minister has acknowledged that more schools may be told to close classrooms because they are built with concrete that might collapse at any time.
After official guidelines implied that schools would be responsible for paying for the emergency measures, Nick Gibb reiterated that the Government would cover the expenses of temporary housing.
Just as students were getting ready to return from the summer break, the Department for Education (DfE) instructed 104 schools and institutions to completely or partially close buildings.
However, Mr. Gibb acknowledged that as additional information about the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) is gathered, more schools may be instructed to close.
“There may be more after that as these questionnaires continue to be surveyed and we continue to do more surveying work,” he told GB News.
Mr. Gibb stressed, though, that students and parents shouldn’t worry about the risk while they wait for the results.
“No, they shouldn’t worry,” he said.
“That’s a very cautious approach, so parents can be confident that if they’ve not been contacted by their school it is safe to send children back into school.”
He insisted “we took the decision as soon as the evidence emerged” as ministers faced anger for only telling schools of the closures days before children start the autumn term.
Mr Gibb said “over the summer” they discovered a number of instances where Raac that had been considered to be low risk “actually turned out to be unsafe”.
He said that a “beam collapsed” that had no obvious exterior indicators constituted a “critical risk” and was broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Today show.
The official instruction, according to the minister, is being changed since it implied that schools would be responsible for paying the rental fees for temporary housing, which further sparked outrage.
“We’re going to clarify the guidance because of their misinterpretation, we are paying for those costs,” he told Today.
“If in the worst-case scenario a school does have to close and we put Portakabins into the grounds, all that cost will be covered by the department.”
Following the preventative measures taken so far this year by 52 out of the 156 educational settings that contain the concrete, the DfE announced on Thursday that it has contacted 104 additional schools.
While safety precautions are put in place, the government stated that a “minority” will need to “either fully or partially relocate” to alternative housing.
It was suggested to find space in adjacent schools, community centres, or a “empty local office building” for the “first few weeks” while structures were being stabilised with structural supports.
Schools were advised that switching to remote learning in the form of the epidemic should only be done “as a last resort and for a brief period.”
The Government is required by Labour to identify all the impacted schools.
Insisting that schools were getting in touch with the families, Mr. Gibb said to Today that “we will publish a list” after the families were in a “stable place” and that this contact had already taken place.
Lightweight rac, which was employed in construction from the 1950s to the mid-1990s, is now thought to be in danger of collapsing.
Although the DfE has been thinking about Raac as a potential problem since late 2018, unions are upset with the timing of the decision to give guidance so close to the start of the semester.
National Education Union general secretary Daniel Kebede said: “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.
“To add insult to injury the Government states in its guidance that it will not be covering the costs of emergency temporary accommodation or additional transport.”
The local Bradford government announced on Thursday that Raac has been found in the West Yorkshire city’s Crossflatts Primary School and Eldwick Primary School.
According to Bradford Council, both short-term and long-term alterations are being made to guarantee that children can be accommodated on the two locations.
The council announced that temporary modifications to safe zones will be finished by Sunday and that temporary classrooms have been ordered for both school locations and will be delivered in the upcoming 8–10 weeks at Crossflatts and 14–16 weeks at Eldwick.
According to the BBC, other affected schools include Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School in Brixton, south London, Willowbrook Mead Primary Academy in Leicester, and Ferryhill School, a secondary in County Durham.