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UK schools and the “crumbling concrete” closures

Safety measures are being installed at UK schools, such as this one in Scotland, owing to a risk of collapse. 07 September 2023. (Jeff J Mitchell/Getty)

More than a hundred schools in the country will be closed or partially shut over safety concerns regarding, RAAC, a type of concrete used in the schools which is liable to crumbling. 

The timing couldn't have been worse; students and parents geared up for the new school year after the summer holidays are now facing closures and disruptions.

In some cases pupils have had to be in buildings where the ceilings are at risk of collapse. In other places the ceiling is held up by wooden supports.

The material officially known as reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, RAAC, used in these buildings has outlived its 30 year lifespan.

St. Gregory's Science College in northwest London is one of the schools partially closed while the problem is dealt with.

It's obviously an inconvenience for a lot of people.

Home Learning is going to have to come back in lots of ways. And home learning is difficult for people who don't have internet, access to fast Wi-Fi, so their learning will be hurt.

And obviously if this has to go on for a few months, has to be a few months of remote learning, you know, what happens to the kids that are affected?

Dylan, Student

The government is trying to assure parents the problem is under control. But it has left teachers scrambling to find alternatives such as mobile containers and libraries in which to continue teaching.

And it's not just the schools that are affected. Other public buildings such as courts, universities and hospitals, built between the 1960s and 1980s, also contained what is commonly known as the crumbling concrete.

Yet number 10 Downing Street is standing firm with the Prime Minister not accepting any responsibility and Education Minister, Gillian Keegan was caught not apologizing, but swearing over why she didn't get any credit for doing “a f###ing good job".

We have done a f@@@ing good job because everyone else has sat on there a##es and done nothing. No signs of that? No?

Gillian Keegan, Secretary of State for Education

It turns out this problem has been known for half a decade, all under a conservative government.

For the Prime Minister and his own Education Secretary to say: well, it's not really our fault implies that five years isn't enough to take action.

If they'd taken a graduated approach we may not even be seeing these school closures.

But what matters now to every parent, including myself, is the confidence that the schools we send our children to will be places of education, not places of death.

Lembit Opik, Former British MP

And while the blame game continues to dominate the UK political agenda, it's the students and their parents who are missing out.

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