Ministers under pressure over scale of potentially dangerous concrete, after ITV News investigation

Watch ITV News Investigations Correspondent Dan Hewitt report from a Sheffield primary school that has 60-year-old roofs deemed at risk of collapse

Ministers are under pressure to reveal the number of schools in England made from a potentially dangerous concrete, following an ITV News investigation.

Freedom of information requests by ITV News to schools and local authorities has found at least 68 schools have Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) which the Department for Education has stated is “liable to collapse” with “no warning”.

The number is likely to be much higher though, as five years on since a primary school in Kent suddenly collapsed due to RAAC roofs, ITV News has discovered 1,466 schools still don’t know whether or not they have the lightweight concrete.

We also found 2,044 schools have yet to be checked for RAAC despite being identified as needed an inspection.

Opposition parties have reacted angrily to the findings and called on the Department for Education to get a grip of the problem.

Labour says it will call an Urgent Question in the House of Commons on Monday.

“Parents will be right to be concerned about this, it’s very frightening to think so many schools are at serious risk of collapse,” said Shadow Housing Secretary Bridget Phillipson.

“Ministers have known about these risks for a very long time and they should come clean to parents about the scale of this problem, and I believe they should be in front on the House (of Commons) on Monday setting out what action they’re going to take to make sure all our children are safe when they’re at school.”

Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Munira Wilson says schools at risk of collapse show "shocking neglect" by government. Credit: PA

Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Munira Wilson said she will raise it in parliament as soon as possible.

"Across the country, children are trying to learn while their school buildings crumble around them. This is completely unacceptable and is another display of shocking neglect from this Conservative government,” she said.

"Parents deserve to know the exact number of schools with RAAC concrete so immediate action can be taken to replace these unsafe buildings before they collapse.

"Instead of asking schools to complete surveys, the government must take responsibility and send official inspectors to every school that hasn't yet been checked. They cannot keep blaming others for their own failure."

RAAC is a light bubbly form of precast concrete, frequently used in public sector buildings in the UK from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s.

It is less durable than traditional concrete and has a shelf-life estimated to be around 30 years, according to the Standing Committee on Structural Safety.

A document published by the Department for Education in December 2022 stated that RAAC panels "increase the risk of structural failure, which can be gradual or sudden with no warning" and that "sudden failure of RAAC panels in roofs, eaves, floors, walls and cladding systems would be dangerous and the consequences serious".

The Department for Education (DfE) does not have an accurate record of which schools have RAAC.

1,466 schools built between the 1960s and the 1980s do not know whether they have RAAC. Credit: ITV News

DfE officials have been urging schools and responsible bodies to find out themselves and return the results in a questionnaire which closed at the end of February.

RAAC has also been identified in dozens of NHS hospitals, and the government has pledged to remove it entirely from the NHS estate by 2035, allocating £685m to mitigate the risks.

However, no target- and crucially no central funding- has been made available to tackle RAAC in school buildings.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: "We take the safety of pupils and staff extremely seriously and where RAAC is confirmed at a school, we help schools to access appropriate support.

“We are working proactively with responsible bodies to help with identification and management of RAAC across the school estate and we urge all responsible bodies to respond to our questionnaire on this.

“We have appointed three leading structural surveying firms to investigate all cases of suspected RAAC. Alongside this, we have allocated £13billion of capital funding for schools since 2015, including £1.8 billion in 2022-23, for essential maintenance and improvements.”

If you have a story about RAAC you would like to share, please get in touch with: investigations@itv.com

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