To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the National Audit Office’s report entitled Condition of school buildings, published on 28 June 2023, what plans her Department has to tackle the safety issues of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete in school buildings; and by what date.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent discussions she has had with the Chancellor of the Exchequer on capital funding to support the removal of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete from school buildings; and how much and what proportion of that capital funding (a) has been allocated under the school rebuilding programme and (b) comprises additional funding.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether her Department has made an estimate of the number of schools at risk of imminent closure as a result of the (a) condition of and (b) type of building material in school buildings in (i) Enfield North constituency, (ii) the London Borough of Enfield and (iii) London.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether her Department has (a) contacted every school in Erith and Thamesmead constituency that may be affected by the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), (b) assigned a caseworker to each affected school and (c) informed the relevant local authority of their (i) findings and (ii) actions.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, whether her Department has (a) contacted every school in Enfield North constituency that may be affected by the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, (b) assigned a caseworker to each affected school and (c) informed the relevant local authority of their (i) findings and (ii) actions.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, how many schools are currently waiting for the results of their reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete survey to be returned as of 7 September 2023.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate she has made of the number and proportion of state-funded schools that are suspected to contain reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete that have not yet been surveyed.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent estimate she has made of when all state-funded schools that are suspected to contain reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete will have been surveyed.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what the average waiting time is between a school informing her Department of suspected reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete in its buildings and a surveyor appointed by her Department visiting the school.
Nothing is more important than the safety of children and staff. It has always been the case that where we are made aware of a building that may pose an immediate risk, the Department takes immediate action.
It is the responsibility of those who run schools – academy trusts, Local Authorities, and voluntary-aided school bodies – who work with their schools on a day-to-day basis, to manage the safety and maintenance of their schools and to alert us if there is a concern with a building.
The Department has acted decisively and proactively to tackle this issue. This Government has taken more proactive action on RAAC than any other in the UK. The Department issued comprehensive guidance in 2018, and subsequent years, to all responsible bodies highlighting the potential risks associated with RAAC and supporting them to identify this within their buildings, as well as to take appropriate steps in meeting their obligations to keep buildings safe. The most recent guidance is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reinforced-autoclaved-aerated-concrete-estates-guidance.
There are over 22,000 schools and colleges in England, and the vast majority are unaffected. A significant proportion of the estate was built outside the period where RAAC was used, with around one third of the estate built since 2001, therefore, the Department has focused efforts on buildings built in the post-war decades.
The Department issued a questionnaire in March 2022, asking responsible bodies to inform the Department of any suspected RAAC identified in their estates. Responsible bodies have submitted questionnaires for over 98% of schools with blocks built in the target era, of which there are 14,900. We are pressing all remaining schools to get checks completed, to determine which schools require surveys.
The Department is contacting responsible bodies to help them respond to this request and to advise on what needs to be done, so that they can establish whether they believe they have RAAC. This work will continue until we have a response for all target era schools.
Schools and colleges where RAAC is suspected are being fast tracked for surveying, which is used to confirm whether RAAC is actually present. All schools and colleges that have already told us they suspect they might have RAAC will be surveyed within a matter of weeks, in many cases in a matter of days.
All schools where RAAC is confirmed are provided with a dedicated caseworker to support them and help implement a mitigation plan and minimise the disruption to children’s learning.
Across Government, Departments have been asked to report on the current picture of suspected and confirmed RAAC in their estates as soon as possible. This will be updated on a regular basis as new buildings are identified and surveying and remediation are carried out. The Department for Education published lists of education settings confirmed as having RAAC on Wednesday 6 September, and committed to providing further updates.
Schools will contact parents where RAAC is identified and inform them of any impacts on their child. The vast majority of schools are unaffected. Any parents that are unsure if their child’s school is affected should contact their school directly.
While some short term disruption is inevitable, all available measures will be taken to minimise disruption to pupil learning and ensure that pupils continue to receive face-to-face teaching. Where there is any disturbance to face-to-face education, schools will prioritise attendance for vulnerable children and young people and children of key workers. The guidance published by the Department in August also includes guidance on provision for pupils with SEND and sets out expectations that schools continue to provide free school meals to eligible pupils.
The Department will fund emergency mitigation work needed to make buildings safe, including installing alternative classroom space where necessary. Where schools and colleges need additional help with revenue costs, like transport to locations or temporarily renting a local hall or office, the department will provide that support for all reasonable requests. The Department will also fund longer term refurbishment projects, or rebuilding projects where these are needed, to rectify the RAAC issue in the long term.
All previously confirmed Schol Rebuilding Programme projects announced in 2021 and 2022 will continue to go ahead. A full list of confirmed projects can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-rebuilding-programme-schools-in-the-programme.
Further information on RAAC in education settings is available on the Education Hub: https://educationhub.blog.gov.uk/2023/09/06/new-guidance-on-raac-in-education-settings/.