Thousands of students asked to stay home over concrete concerns.

Thousands of students asked to stay home over concrete concerns.

Thousands of students across England are being kept at home as the new school year commences due to safety concerns regarding deteriorating concrete structures. The Department for Education (DfE) has finally released a list of 147 schools and colleges in the country that are known to have reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) on their premises, which is susceptible to collapse.

Remote Learning for Some Among these schools, four have been compelled to switch to remote learning exclusively, opting for online classes over in-person instruction due to the concrete crisis. Additionally, another 20 schools have had to offer partial remote learning to students at the start of the academic year because of the presence of Raac in their buildings. The commencement of term has also been temporarily delayed at 19 other schools as they finalize alternative accommodations.

Government Action and Reactions The government’s decision to reveal this list comes almost a week after more than 100 education institutions in England were instructed to fully or partially shut their buildings just days before the start of the new academic year, alluding to concerns about Raac. This sudden development has left headteachers scrambling to secure temporary teaching spaces, with some being forced to replace face-to-face lessons with online learning.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan expressed her understanding of the unfavorable start to the term for those affected, emphasizing her commitment to the safety of students and staff. She noted that the majority of schools with confirmed Raac have still opened for in-person learning.

Continued Monitoring and Uncertainty The remaining schools and colleges listed by the DfE as being affected by Raac are currently offering face-to-face learning on-site or nearby. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan urged schools that hadn’t responded to a survey about crumbling concrete to do so promptly.

Downing Street acknowledged that the number of affected school sites might increase as not all questionnaires have been returned by academy trusts and councils. The government plans to continually review and update the list. However, they did not provide a timeline for resolving the concrete crisis.

Criticism and Political Response Critics, including Patrick Roach, the general secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, questioned why it took six days to produce the list of affected schools and demanded an urgent plan to address the issue. Liberal Democrat education spokeswoman Munira Wilson criticized the delay in releasing the list and called for transparency.

The controversy over Raac in England’s schools dominated Prime Minister’s Questions, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticizing the government’s handling of the situation. In response, Rishi Sunak defended the government’s actions, citing the impracticality of previous programs and emphasizing that the majority of schools in England would not be affected by the Raac issue.

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