UK Education Secretary Faces Criticism for School Closures Amid Concrete Crisis


Unilateral Decision Sparks Controversy

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has come under fire for her decision to shut school buildings amid a concrete crisis. Critics argue that this move could set a dangerous precedent and result in the closure of other public places with crumbling concrete.

Disruption in Schools

A list of 147 schools facing disruptions due to dangerous reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) has been published. Four schools have implemented total remote learning, while 20 others have adopted hybrid learning models. Additionally, 19 schools have delayed the start of the school year following last-minute government orders.

Growing Number of Affected Schools

The initial list of 156 schools requiring Raac mitigations was reduced after nine were deemed safe. However, Downing Street has acknowledged that the number will increase as more building surveys are completed by education officials.

Government's Response

Education Secretary Keegan defended her decision, emphasizing that the safety of pupils and staff is her priority. However, the Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, criticized Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for cutting repair funding and compared the situation to dealing with unreliable builders. Some government officials expressed concerns that the closure of schools could lead to widespread closures of other establishments.

A Cautious Approach

Prime Minister Sunak defended the cautious approach, stating that he made "no apologies" for prioritizing the safety of children. His spokesperson clarified that the Department for Education's handling of the Raac issue may not be the same for all departments and public bodies.

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