The UK schools minister has issued a warning that more schools in England may face closure after over 100 education facilities were told to shut just days before the start of the term. These schools have been ordered to close due to concerns over the structural integrity of buildings made with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), a material at risk of collapsing.
The Department for Education (DfE) has not disclosed the names of the 104 schools affected. They stated that a minority of state facilities might have to relocate completely and some students may be forced to engage in remote learning akin to the pandemic period. Schools, school nurseries, and colleges have been directed to finance their own emergency accommodation.
According to the schools minister, Nick Gibb, the number of affected schools is currently 156. However, he also stated that more schools may be added to the list as further surveys are conducted. The decision to close these schools has been taken now due to new evidence regarding the structural soundness of buildings across England, extending beyond just schools. It was emphasized that the safety of children and staff is of utmost importance.
The government has altered its previous policy; now, any building identified to have RAAC in schools will be taken out of use. The DfE is providing support to the 156 affected schools to find alternative accommodation for their students. Options such as nearby schools, community centers, or local office buildings are being recommended as temporary solutions while the buildings are secured with structural supports.
The timing of the guidance issued just before the start of the term has caused frustration among parents, children, and unions. The DfE has been aware of the potential risks associated with RAAC since late 2018, but the decision to issue guidance at this moment has raised concerns.
Moving forward, it is crucial to prioritize the safety of children and staff in these schools. While the process of finding alternative accommodation may pose challenges, it is necessary to ensure that educational facilities are secure for all individuals involved.