Urgent Update on School Safety: Risk of Sudden Collapse at 52 Schools in England

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School closed RAAC

Chaos Strikes English Schools as Dangerous Buildings Force Last-Minute Closures

Parents and students received startling news mere days before the new term begins – over 150 English schools possess buildings deemed unsafe due to the risk of sudden collapse. Weary headteachers now scramble to implement contingency plans, upending the start of school for thousands.

The crisis stems from reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), a material widely utilised until the 1990s and now discovered to deteriorate faster than anticipated. After a supposedly stable beam unexpectedly collapsed this summer, the government scrambled to reassess the risk, finding far more critical defects than previously thought.

The government says it has been aware of RAAC in public sector buildings, including schools, since 1994.

It said it has advised schools to have “adequate contingencies” in place since 2018, in case affected buildings needed to be evacuated.

The Welsh government has said it will survey the country’s schools and colleges to check if any are made with RAAC.

In Scotland, at least seven schools are affected but the number could be as high as 37, according to the Liberal Democrats. In Northern Ireland, surveys are underway.

Aside from schools, numerous public buildings have been identified as being at risk because of RAAC, including courts, hospitals and police stations.

The revised guidance ordered over 100 additional schools to immediately close off areas containing suspect RAAC pending urgent safety upgrades. For some, this meant entirely shifting learning off-site or into temporary classrooms. Imagine the logistical gymnastics as staff race to coordinate remote lessons or secure replacement facilities days before the first bell rings!

While the government claimed safety measures are in place at the 52 schools deemed most critically at risk, their vagueness sows little reassurance. Revelations drip out in piecemeal fashion, obfuscating the full scale of this debacle. How many schools stand fully shuttered? When exactly did officials realise the extent of deterioration? And why does urgency arrive only now, decades after alarms first sounded? More so why have successive governments continually ignored the issue after being made fully aware way back in 1994?

Why Weren’t Safety Upgrades Completed During Lockdown?

In the midst of this crisis, a bigger question arises: Why were crucial safety upgrades not undertaken during the lockdown period when students were remote, and these essential enhancements could have been executed without hindrance? What plausible justification can be offered for the neglect of imperative renovations on vacant premises over the past two years?

Certainly, performing vital structural repairs constitutes essential work, even amidst the backdrop of a pandemic. The safety of students within their learning environments is of paramount importance, and ensuring this should have been a top priority when access was unobstructed.

Officials had the perfect window to address this urgent threat, with vacant schools and ample time for renovations.

Yet they squandered this opportunity, neglecting a hazard that should have topped any prudent maintenance list. Now students and staff are left paying the price through last-minute chaos and uncertainty that proper planning could have avoided.

Instead, the state squandered billions on family and friends in their cronyism-disguised pandemic fiscal policy without a care other than getting their snouts firmly into the trough.

However, above all, one question lingers – when will replacement finally occur, so students can safely return to stable buildings? Regrettably, in this ongoing irresponsible saga, the state offers no concrete timeline, appearing unprepared for the task at hand. Must we endure another tragedy before officials finally commit to decisive action? For now, avoidable uncertainty prevails, as stopgap solutions allow decay to fester.

But when it all comes crumbling down what we see is this manmade disaster highlights government negligence despite years of warnings. In their bureaucratic slumber, the safety of students was jeopardised by inaction.

Now officials finger-point, but accountability starts at the top. British students deserve learning environments free of danger. Until officials guarantee that basic right, trust lies fractured along with those crumbling cement beams.

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