Raac: Whole school in London forced to close over dangerous concrete

For parents, teachers, and pupils up and down the country, Raac is an ongoing worry and logistical nightmare - ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan has the latest

An entire secondary school and sixth form in London has been forced to close immediately, with 1,800 students sent home with minimal warning.

Stepney All Saints School in Stepney, east London informed the Department for Education (DfE) that it had Raac before the term started, meaning students spent two weeks in a school which the government has now deemed to be unsafe.

The school followed all guidance and was initially told by the DfE that the additional mitigation it had put in place meant the school could continue face-to-face lessons.

On Thursday 14th September, the DfE wrote to the school to confirm Raac had been identified and additional areas would need to be taken out of action. Under previous guidance, the mitigation would have been sufficient but now the school was told they would have to close with immediate effect.

In a letter sent to all parents, the school said that all lessons would take place online and students have been provided with a school laptop. It also confirmed that eligible children would still have access to free school meals.

Local MP Rushanara Ali has demanded answers from the Education Secretary, saying there are serious questions to answer.

Before the term started, there were 52 schools with mitigations in place, and 104 where they were being put in place. Questions are being raised about whether these numbers have increased.

Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson is calling for 'transparency' from the government about the support for schools dealing with Raac.

A project director is due to visit the school today with the aim of returning pupils back into the classroom as soon as possible.

A DfE spokesperson said: "We have been working at pace to identify and support all schools with Raac. While we will always endeavour to work with schools to continue with face-to-face learning, pupil and staff's safety must come first.

"As a result, a very small number of impacted schools have needed to turn to remote learning for a short period of time.

"We know this will be a difficult time for parents and pupils, which is why we will continue to work with the Diocese and Stepney All Saints School to support them to put mitigations in place so that pupils can return to the classroom as soon as possible."

Raac, or reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, is a lightweight form of concrete which is weaker than reinforced concrete. It was used in building construction in schools and other civic buildings from the 1950s until the 1990s.

More than 150 schools nationwide were forced to fully or partially shut just before the start of the new school year due to fears over the weak concrete.

The dangers of Raac came to the forefront in 2018 when the ceiling of a roof of a Kent school collapsed with almost no warning.

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