Ferryhill School delays start of term over RAAC concrete in roof

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete has been found in Ferryhill School, in County Durham. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

A school in County Durham is unable to open as planned next week due to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in the roof.

More than 100 schools in England are at risk of collapse due to the use of the lightweight type of concrete.

Ferryhill School is among those to have written to parents and carers to tell them the start of the school year will be delayed, with most pupils to be educated remotely from 11 September.

A letter to parents said: “As the main buildings at Ferryhill School were built in 1964, we have undertaken inspection work throughout the summer, and earlier this week the surveying and engineering team confirmed that there are issues in our two main blocks.

“We are currently working with our surveyors to ascertain a way forward.

“Unfortunately, as a result of this, we are unable to open the building to Ferryhill students on Tuesday 5th September and have no choice but to delay the start of the new school year.”

Parts of the building are unaffected and year 7 pupils will be able to start the new term on 11 September, the letter added.

Other year groups will receive remote education from that date.

Ferryhill School has told parents that they hope to have more information early next week. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

The letter to parents added: “Our main priority is to ensure that all of our students receive face-to-face education as soon as possible and so we are sourcing alternative venues, as a matter of urgency, in the local area that we can use to ensure that students receive high-quality education.

“We are hopeful that we will be able to accommodate a large number of students on site within the next couple of weeks and should have more information on this by the start of next week.”

Paul Howell, MP for Sedgefield, said he was working hard to understand the situation and urged anyone affected to get in touch so he could raise it in Parliament on Monday.

"Hopefully it is a relatively short-term impact in terms of the young people's education," he told ITV Tyne Tees. "At the end of the day, the two things that are important are the education and safety of our children.

"I know there will be a briefing from the education team [in Parliament] on Monday and that will be the perfect opportunity to understand the situation more fully and to put any pressure points on. 

"Anyone that has been affected by this, get in touch and arm me with questions for that meeting." 

Thousands of pupils across England are facing disruption at the start of the school year after 104 schools were told to partially or fully close buildings.

RAAC is a lightweight building material used from the 1950s up to the mid-1990s but is now assessed to be at risk of collapse. It is believed to have a lifespan of around 30 years. The National Audit Office (NAO) report warned that around 24,000 school buildings, or 38% of the total, were beyond their estimated design lifespan.

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