Eight classroom block closed at Belfast Cairnshill Primary School after dangerous concrete found

Dangerous concrete has been identified in a Northern Ireland school, the Department for education has confirmed.

RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) was found in Cairnshill Primary School in Belfast forcing the closure of an eight classroom block. It is understood P4-P6 pupils are affected. Engineers have confirmed that the block is unsafe for continued use, officials said.

Steps have been taken to close the classrooms affected and the rest of the building remains safe to use for staff and pupils. Department of Education Permanent Secretary, Dr Mark Browne, visited the school on Wednesday and met with Principal Joanne Currie, members of the Board of Governors, staff, Education Authority representatives and engineers. Following the meeting Dr Browne said: “The safety of our teachers, staff and pupils in our schools is our highest priority. We fully understand that this news will be concerning for staff, parents/carers and the wider school community.

“The Department and the Education Authority are working closely with the school to ensure those classes affected can return as early as possible next week. “The Department will provide funding for all remedial works required and we are committed to ensuring that there will be as little as disruption as possible for the school and parents.” The school will communicate arrangements to parents/carers as they are confirmed and the department will continue to ensure the wider school community are kept fully informed moving forward.

Education officials had been surveying schools in Northern Ireland after the problem arose in other parts of the UK.

Over 170 schools and colleges were found to have been built with the material in England.

RAAC is a lightweight, ‘bubbly’ form of concrete commonly used in construction between the 1950s and mid-1990s.

It is predominantly found as precast panels in roofs, commonly found in flat roofs, and occasionally in floors and walls. It means it may be found in any school and college building that was either built or modified in this time period.

In September 2023, the Department of Education (DE) commissioned the Education Authority (EA) to carry out structural surveys to ascertain whether RAAC is present within schools in Northern Ireland.

This work was taken forward as a matter of urgency by the EA’s Maintenance Service, which reviewed all schools on the basis of building fabric, age and type of construction and then organised surveys to be carried out, as required, by appointed engineers.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.