Keegan sorry for 'off the cuff' comment claiming people 'sat on their a***s' during Raac crisis

'It is not the job of the Department for Education', Gillian Keegan tells ITV News

The education secretary has apologised for an "off the cuff" comment made to ITV News in which she suggested people have "been sat on their a***s" over the school Raac crisis.

Gillian Keegan was filmed saying she is doing a "f***ing good job", after she appeared to blame other authorities for their handling of dangerous concrete in schools.

The controversial comments were filmed when the main body of the interview had finished and the camera had repositioned to film extra shots, with Ms Keegan's microphone still on.

Ms Keegan later said she "wasn't really talking about anyone in particular" and apologised for her "choice language", while Downing Street said her words were "not acceptable".

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the prime minister "needs to act", before adding: " Will he have the strength to act? I doubt it."

'I'd like to apologise for my choice language. That was unnecessary', says Education Secretary Gillian Keegan

Ms Keegan also had to defend holidaying with family in Spain as the crumbling concrete crisis hitting schools unfolded.

The Cabinet minister said on Monday she has “always worked remotely” and continued to chair a response team while on the continent for her father’s birthday, between August 25 and Thursday.

Ms Keegan said the trip to Spain – where she reportedly owns property in Madrid and Marbella – was her first opportunity to go on holiday this summer after dealing with striking teachers, as well as GCSE and A-level results.

Also on Monday, as MPs returned to Westminster, the prime minister was forced to deny accusations he refused to fully fund school rebuilding programmes when he was chancellor in 2021.

Jonathan Slater, who was permanent secretary at the Department for Education from May 2016 to August 2020, said he was "absolutely amazed" that a decision was made after he left the department to halve the school rebuilding programme from 400 to 100 schools a year.

Rishi Sunak, who was chancellor at the time, rejected the criticism, insisting such claims are “completely and utterly wrong”.

Over the weekend, Jeremy Hunt said the government will “spend what it takes” to make schools safe after classrooms were forced to close just before the new term amid concerns about the crumbling concrete.

But Treasury sources later said money for repairs would come from the Department for Education’s (DfE) existing capital budget.

The education secretary was recorded on camera suggesting others "have been sat on their a***s" over the crisis, while saying the government should be thanked for their response

What is RAAC?

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) is a lightweight form of concrete. 

The way that RAAC is created makes it weaker than the normal building material.

There is no coarse aggregate - for example gravel and crushed stones - in RAAC, this is what gives concrete its strength.

Instead fine aggregate - such as sand and stone particles - is combined with chemicals to create gas bubbles, and heat to cure the compound. This makes it relatively weak.

In some schools roofs are constructed using RAAC planks, which are long slim blocks of the material.

As more and more schools close due to Raac, the prime minister has been accused of making school repair budget cuts during his time as chancellor

Although not confirmed, it is estimated around 24 schools in England have been told to close entirely because of the presence of Raac, the PA news agency understands.

Raac is a lightweight building material which was used up until the mid-1990s. The DfE was told of the issues potentially caused by Raac in 2018.

NASUWT teaching union official Wayne Bates said the problem within schools could take years to fix, and it “beggars belief” that the prospect of buildings collapsing is even being discussed.

“There’s a huge question mark about what the scale of this problem is,” he said.

Experts have warned that the crisis over Raac could extend beyond the education sector – with healthcare settings, courts and offices also potentially at risk.

Chairwoman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee Dame Meg Hillier warned Raac is just “the tip of the iceberg” of a crumbling school estate, describing the state of some public buildings as “jaw-dropping”.

Writing in The Times, the Labour MP said she had visited a hospital where heavier patients had to be treated on the ground floor due to safety risks.

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