Education Secretary assures parents that concrete crisis will not lead to school lockdowns


Education Secretary prioritizes safety of students and staff

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has addressed concerns from parents regarding the recent closure of some school classrooms due to safety risks associated with certain school buildings. Keegan emphasizes that the decision to close classrooms was made with careful consideration of the safety of pupils, teachers, and school workers.

Not a return to lockdown

Keegan assures families that the closure of classrooms does not signal a return to the dark days of school lockdowns experienced during the pandemic. However, she acknowledges the anxiety caused by the closures, especially considering the recent disruption caused by the pandemic. Keegan stresses that this is a necessary precaution to ensure the safety of students.

Evidence of concrete risks

The decision to close classrooms was based on new evidence indicating that Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC), used in certain school buildings, posed safety risks. While RAAC was already known to be a risk, recent cases have raised concerns about its safety. Keegan emphasizes that the government cannot take risks with children's safety and must act based on evidence.

Action taken by the government

The Department for Education has taken a proactive approach to address the concrete crisis. In 2018, warning notices were sent to councils and academy trusts responsible for school safety and maintenance. In 2022, detailed information on RAAC was requested, and engineering surveys were conducted to identify affected schools. Immediate action was taken for critical cases, while non-critical cases were mitigated and monitored.

Clear picture of affected schools

The surveying process has allowed the government to target its work and have a clear understanding of where RAAC is present. So far, 156 schools and colleges have been confirmed to have RAAC, out of over 22,000 schools and colleges in the country. Efforts are ongoing to identify more affected schools swiftly.

Supporting affected schools

The government is providing support to affected schools, including caseworkers and funding for immediate measures such as temporary classrooms. Most schools will be able to continue operating on-site, with only a small amount of space affected. A minority may need to temporarily move students or resort to remote learning.

Transparency and communication

The names of affected schools will be released once parents have been informed and given time to respond. Keegan emphasizes the importance of allowing schools to communicate with parents before publicizing the information. She pledges to provide updates on progress in Parliament next week to keep parents and the public informed.

Prioritizing children's safety

Keegan acknowledges the disruption caused by the closure of classrooms, but emphasizes that prioritizing children's safety is of the utmost importance. Acting in the public interest, especially when it comes to the safety of children, is a core responsibility of the government.

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