Some of the older buildings at Ellen Wilkinson school are affected. Picture: Google Streetview
September 6, 2023
There have been no reports in the local area of children being turned away at the start of term due to concerns about the safety of school buildings. However, one school has forced to shut buildings due to emerging issues with the material used in their construction.
Over 100 schools across the country have been confirmed as having reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) without safety measures in place. This includes Ellen Wilkinson School in Acton which has the material causing concern in its canteen, science block, old gym and hall. These buildings have been vacated but the school will remain open and pupils have been told to bring in packed lunches while the canteen is out of use. Children on free school meals are being given vouchers.
Liberal Democrat Councillor Andrew Steed said, "Liberal Democrats are critical of the Department for Education and we are calling for an immediate survey of school buildings to ensure they are all safe for our children. Many parents in the UK have been left scrambling to arrange childcare and locally we need to ensure that the Council and schools reassure parents and children about these new arrangements so they all know how long the changes will last."
An Ealing Council spokesperson said, “We can confirm that no reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) has been found at any Ealing-owned school sites.
“However, it has been found at a foundation school in the borough – Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls in Acton – where it is present in some of the school’s buildings. The school will not need to close. Everyone’s primary concern is the safety of pupils and staff, and the affected areas have been taken out of use while safety measures are put in place and works arranged.”
In Hounslow Borough, there have been no reports of any issues with schools . In June 2021, a meeting of the Schools Forum reported that 15 schools in the borough may have RAAC in their structures. It was recommended that a Structural Engineer make a report on the schools, but it is not clear if this ever happened.
Councillor Lily Bath, Cabinet Member for Education, Children, Skills and Employment at Hounslow Council said, “At the request of the Department for Education (DfE), schools along with the relevant responsible bodies across the country completed surveys on the presence of RAAC, providing them with a list of potential schools effected.
“Following the untimely announcement by the DfE, the Council is now working swiftly to assess any potential impact this may have on the pupils attending schools in our area before the start of the new term. Where there may be an impact schools will communicate as early as possible with parents and the local authority will support any school within the borough that may be affected with planning and mitigating action to support continuation of children’s learning.”
RAAC is a lightweight form of concrete which appears to have bubbles in it. It was widely used between the mid-1960s to the mid-1980s as a cheaper construction material than traditional concrete and is mainly used in roofs.
The Department for Education (DfE) has said over the weekend 156 school buildings were identified as having this type of concrete, of which 52 were at risk of sudden collapse and have been closed. The others are putting in safety measures to allow them to stay open.
It is thought possible that additional schools may be found to have RAAC. A report by the National Audit Office in June identified 572 schools across the country that may have used the material in their construction.
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