'Omnishambles': DfE apologises to partially-closed Leicester school after no Raac found in building

  • ITV News Central's Education Correspondent Peter Bearne reports

A primary school in Leicester that was told to partially-close due to fears about crumbling concrete has been found to be safe.

The Willowbrook Mead Academy in Thurnby has been taken off the government's list of schools across the UK which were built using a potentially dangerous, lightweight, building material known as reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac).

The Department for Education (DfE) surveyed the school in August, and declared parts of the building unsafe for children to return to due the potential that it contained Raac.

Another survey was commissioned by the Academy to determine what remedial action was needed to make the school safe.

It found no evidence of Raac in any part of the school, and the government declared it was safe to reopen.


8 August - a survey by the DfE finds that Raac is present at the Willowbrook Mead Academy.

31 August - the government instructs the school to close its Key Stage 2 block immediately.

1 September - teachers filmed moving furniture and equipment out of the school building.

4 September - the Willowbrook Mead Academy commissions a specialist RAAC engineer to undertake another survey, which finds no evidence of Raac in the building.

6 September - the Academy is removed from a list of schools affected by Raac.

The DfE said it "acted immediately" to declare the school Raac-free and to ensure the building could reopen, on the grounds of the latest survey.

ITV News filmed at the Willowbrook Mead Academy last Friday (1 September) as teachers moved furniture and equipment out of the building.

Staff at the Willowbrook Mead Academy move equipment out of the school building on Friday 1 September. Credit: ITV Central

Staff had already started looking for temporary classrooms, and were planning to move some children to another school.

Parents of children who attend the Academy have told ITV News that they are frustrated by the change in ruling.

One parent said: "I think it should have all been done whilst the kids were off school in the summer holidays."

Another said: "I think it's irresponsible of them and they're scaring the parents. First, they say it's unsafe then it's safe."

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School & College Leaders (ASCL) based in Leicester, has described the U-turn as an "omnishambles".

"To close one day, to open another day, it's not fair to young people and it's not fair to parents," he added.

The DfE has apologised to Willowbrook Mead Academy for the mix-up and said: "We were not made aware prior to our survey being commissioned, or us acting on its findings, of the existence of a prior survey indicating RAAC was not present."

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan added: "I know this is the last way parents, teachers and children affected by this wanted to begin the new term, but it will always be my priority to ensure the safety of pupils and staff."

In a letter to parents, the Mead Trust which runs the school said: "It is a huge relief that we can move pupils back into their classrooms and return to our normal routines within the next week.

"We know this has been a hugely frustrating and upsetting time for you and your children. We are very grateful for your support, patience and understanding."

The school will fully reopen on Monday (11 September), and staff will spend tomorrow (8 September) returning equipment to classrooms.

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