Aylesbury Labour is clear – The Conservatives cannot be trusted with any part of our public services. Change is vital – public service needs to be competent, thorough and properly funded.
This Tory era of exploitation, profiteering and cruelty is harming us all.
Enough is enough.
So now, English schools have been told to close buildings made with crumble-risk concrete just a week before the start of term.
The shadow education secretary, Bridget Phillipson, said it was a “staggering display of Tory incompetence”. “Dozens of England’s schools are at risk of collapse with just days before children crowd their corridors,” she said. “Ministers have been content to let this chaos continue for far too long.”
"Dozens of England’s schools are at risk of collapse with just days before children crowd their corridors" Bridget Phillipson, Shadow Education Secretary
In 2010 a long-planned £55bn schools rebuilding programme, Building Schools for the Future, was scrapped by the then education secretary, Michael Gove, during the first months of the coalition government. He has since said he regretted the decision.
Labour says “This shocking admission is a concrete result of years of Conservative neglect of our school buildings. Parents, teachers and pupils will be horrified that children have been taught in unsafe buildings and cannot return to school next week. Instead pupils face more misery learning in temporary classrooms or being bussed miles to local schools. Pupil safety is paramount but for this to come out just days before term starts is totally unacceptable.”
More than 100 schools are facing the immediate closure of buildings constructed from potentially dangerous aerated concrete panels, plunging the beginning of term into chaos for thousands of pupils.
The government has found that 156 schools in England have reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) materials but only 52 have put mitigations in place against risks including collapse. It admitted Engineers have warned the material is at risk of cracking and spalling and of “shear failure”.
The Department for Education (DfE) has told schools to immediately shut buildings made with aerated concrete until safety work is undertaken. “This may come as a shock and is likely to cause disruption” but say “the safety of pupils, students and staff is our priority”.
Officials were making hurried calls urging school leaders to draw up contingency plans for buildings at risk of collapse because of crumbling concrete. Now schools are being told to take buildings out of use straight away, in what appears to be a response to advice to proceed with greater caution.
Four schools were shut in April and June after RAAC was discovered in their buildings. On Wednesday, a DfE spokesperson said: “We have been engaging with schools and responsible bodies about the potential risks of RAAC since 2018 and subsequently published guidance on identifying and managing it.”
The Association of School and College Leaders said the rush to establish contingency plans in case buildings collapse was “symptomatic of the government’s neglect of the school estate”.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said the union had repeatedly raised concerns about the dangers and “while this news is shocking, sadly it is not hugely surprising”. He said it was the result of “a decade of swingeing cuts to spending on school buildings”.
Unison, which represents more than 200,000 non-academic school staff, said the situation was “nothing short of a scandal”.
Funding cuts are already leading to long term illness and early death for the less privileged.
Do we really need to wait for children to be crushed to death before making changes.
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