Ministers are facing calls for transparency over the scale of aerated concrete in schools as some classrooms have been made to shut their days before the start of term. According to the Daily Mirror, Cranbourne College in Wessex Close, Basingstoke, is one of the schools being asked to close.
Experts have warned that the crisis over reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) could extend beyond the education sector – with healthcare settings, courts and offices also potentially at risk.
Chairwoman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee Dame Meg Hillier warned Raac is just “the tip of the iceberg” of a crumbling school estate, describing the state of some public buildings was “jaw-dropping”.
Writing in The Times, the Labour MP said she had visited a hospital where heavy patients had to be treated on the ground floor because of the risk of roof failure. Opposition parties are demanding information about the scale of Raac across the public sector estate, with Labour calling for an “urgent audit”.
The Department of Education (DoE) has forced 104 schools and colleges to partially or fully shut buildings. Though not confirmed, it is estimated that around 24 schools in England have been told to close entirely because of the presence of Raac.
Schools minister Nick Gibb has admitted that more places could be asked to shut classrooms. Mr Gibb said that a collapse of a beam that had been considered safe over the summer sparked an urgent rethink on whether buildings with the aerated concrete could remain open.
He insisted schools were contacting affected families and told the BBC’s Today programme “we will publish a list”, but only once they are in a “stable place”. But the problem could be far wider, with other buildings at risk of sudden collapse if Raac is not removed, specialists said.
Dame Meg questioned “why it has been left to deteriorate for so long” while millions of pounds are being spent on temporary measures to mitigate the risk.
“In both schools and hospitals, there hasn’t been enough money going into buildings and equipment,” she told Times Radio.
She said the costs of working around the problem – by using props to support existing structures and conducting surveys on Raac-affected areas – were “eye-watering and wasteful”.
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Engineers have warned that the problem could be far wider, with hospitals, prisons, courts and offices potentially at risk due to the use of Raac up to the mid-1990s.
Labour has called for an “urgent audit” to identify the risk of the concrete across the public sector estate, while the Liberal Democrats said the public and NHS staff need “urgent clarity” over whether hospital wards and buildings could be forced to close.
Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said the crisis would damage the education of children at a primary school in a deprived area of her constituency which has been forced to close its hall.
“These are some of the poorest, less ready-for-school children that we have in this country and they really need their schools to be open,” the Manchester Central MP told BBC Breakfast. Raac is thought to be present in buildings at 34 hospitals across England, and the Government has pledged seven of the worst affected will be replaced by 2030.
List of schools closed due to Raac
These are the list of schools affected, according to the Daily Mirror. The Department of Education has not published a full list. This list is compiled from media reports and information from schools:
Cranbourne College, Basingstoke
Hockley Primary School, Rochford
Mistley Norman Church of England Primary School, Manningtree
St Andrews Junior School, Hatfield Peverel
Kingsdown School, Southend-on-Sea
Stanway Fiveways Primary School, Colchester
Honywood Community School, Coggeshall
Baynards Primary School, Tiptree
Thurstable School, Tiptree
Winter Gardens Academy, Canvey Island
Woodville Primary School, South Woodham Ferrers
The Gilberd School, Colchester
The Appleton School, Benfleet
Katherines Primary Academy, Harlow
White Hall Academy, Clacton-on-Sea
Ramsey Academy, Halstead
Ravens Academy, Clacton-On-Sea
St Clere's School, Stanford-le-Hope
East Bergholt High School, Colchester
The Billericay School, Billericay
Clacton County High School, Clacton
Jerounds Primary School in Harlow
Tendring Technology College, Frinton Campus
White Hall Academy primary, Clacton
Wyburns Primary School, Rayleigh
Claydon High School, Claydon
Hadleigh High School, Hadleigh
Willowbrook Mead Primary Academy, Leicester
Parks Primary School, Leicester
Mayflower Primary School, Leicester
Buckton Fields Primary School, Northampton
Donnington Wood Infants School, Donnington
Corpus Christi Catholic Primary School, Brixton
St Gregory's Catholic Science College, Brent
St Thomas More Catholic Comprehensive, Eltham
St Mary Magdalene and St Stephen's CE Primary School, Westminster
Our Lady's Catholic High School, Preston
Crossflatts Primary School, Bradford
Eldwick Primary School, Bradford
Abbey Lane Primary School, Sheffield
Scalby School, Scarborough
Ferryhill School, Ferryhill
St Bede's Catholic School, Easington
Byron Sixth Form Peterlee, Easington
St Leonard’s Catholic School, Durham
St James Catholic Primary, Hebburn
St Teresa's Catholic Primary School
Carmel College and Sixth Form, Darlington
Holy Trinity Catholic Academy, Newark
Carnarvon Primary School, Bingham
Wood Green Academy, Wednesbury
Cockermouth School, Cockermouth