More than 100 schools and colleges in England which may be at risk of collapse due to outmoded building materials have been told to vacate to safer settings.
104 sites where reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) is present without mitigations in place received the advice from the Department for Education (DfE) this week, just days before the start of the autumn term.
Pressure on ministers to publish the full list of schools is mounting.
New cases have ‘reduced the DfE’s confidence’ schools and colleges with confirmed RAAC “should remain open without mitigations in place”, wrote the government.
It added, however, most sites will still provide face-to-face learning, as “only a small part of the site” is affected.
Funding for essential works to remove any immediate risk is being made available by the government.
More than 50 sites have already been identified this year, whereafter pupils were moved to temporary spaces.
RAAC was a lightweight building material used to construct public buildings like schools and hospitals between the 1950s and mid-1990s.
However, the absence of coarse aggregate – present in ‘traditional’ reinforced concrete – means RAAC has a limited lifespan, after which it deteriorates rapidly, having usually developed air pockets inside.
“The plan we have set out will minimise the impact on pupil learning and provide schools with the right funding and support they need to put mitigations in place to deal with RAAC,” said education secretary, Gillian Keegan.
Adding: “We must take a cautious approach because that is the right thing to do for both pupils and staff.”
Phil Caton, construction law partner at Aaron & Partners, added: “The government’s recent decision to close schools with RAAC structures raises urgent concerns about safety, liability, and public trust. One glaring issue is the reliance on self-reported questionnaires from schools to identify RAAC presence, without a clear, immediate verification process by the Department for Education. This lack of transparency compromises the accuracy of the reporting and leaves parents in the dark about whether their children’s schools are genuinely safe or even inspected.
“From a legal standpoint, the liabilities here could be substantial. Schools, local councils, and potentially past contractors could be implicated in a series of complex legal disputes over responsibility for material failures or incidents. Given that RAAC was popular between the 1950s and mid-1990s, many original contractors and designers may no longer exist, making it difficult to seek any legal redress or obtain original technical information. This adds complexity to an already challenging situation involving potential legal disputes and public safety concerns.
“There’s an urgent need for a transparent, coordinated approach among government bodies, schools, and construction experts to manage both the immediate safety risks and the long-term legal implications of this matter.”
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