UK Schools
More than 100 UK schools have been closed down due to the RAAC concrete collapse threat while the government asked schools to take a department for education survey for proper risk assessment. AFP News/OLI SCARFF

In the wake of more than 100 schools closing down due to the RAAC concrete collapse, the National Education Union (NEU) has come up with guidelines for UK schools and urged the government to bear the cost of the repair of school buildings.

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete or RAAC is a weak porous concrete material which has been used in public buildings like schools from the 1950s to 1990s. These fragile structures are prone to collapse.

The first such RAAC risk assessment came into the limelight when a roof collapsed at a Kent primary school in 2018. With a lifespan of 30 years, RAAC structures built in the 1990s are out of date and likely to collapse, says NEU.

This comes at a time when Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reportedly denied funding for RAAC concrete repair.

RAAC concrete collapse tackling guideline for UK schools

The UK school closures from August 31 were triggered by a RAAC beam collapse which happened suddenly without any signs of degradation. In such a circumstance NEU advises schools in the UK to determine if it contains RAAC or not.

Schools are requested to be open and transparent in providing the necessary RAAC information to the NEU health and safety reps. UK schools without an NEU health and safety rep have been asked to appoint one immediately.

As part of the safety checks for schools in the UK should be prepared for the Department for Education (DfE) questionnaire about RAAC. NEU suggests all UK schools complete the DfE questionnaire and in case RAAC is suspected the school has the right to get expert advice from the DfE or any other responsible body.

According to the NEU guideline, schools suspected of RAAC but not confirmed of it should get a degree of uncertainty assessed by a surveyor or engineer. If RAAC is confirmed then the school needs to know the contingency plan for it.

Under all circumstances, teachers and other staff members are advised not to inspect the material themselves and to get an RAAC risk assessment analysis report from an expert.

NEU has hoped that schools suspected of RAAC will be confirmed and rapid action will be taken to eradicate the risks including construction of temporary buildings and allocating funds for the removal of RAAC structures. Schools are advised to be informed about the RAAC situation and keep in touch with their respective NEU branch.

The National Education Union has been working with its sister organisations to prepare a list of 104 RAAC-affected schools. Since August 31, these 104 schools have been asked to close down either partially or fully until the risks are mitigated. However, the DfE list is far from being transparent and is in the process of constant upgradation.

Answering questions about the RAAC crisis, the UK Minister of State Schools Nick Gibb admitted that RAAC questionnaires are still under examination.

The DfE has asked RAAC-confirmed UK schools to vacate their premises or have restricted access to it. RAAC confirmed schools who haven't done it should contact their NEU branch for support.

Schools that have been closed down are advised to ask for the designated RAAC locations and the actions taken to reduce risks. According to NEU, schools should also know if any of their structures contain asbestos as RAAC buildings often have those. In case asbestos is present then the school should be informed how those materials are safely removed.

NEU and its sister organisations are working together to get the full list of schools affected from the UK government. The organisation is also pressuring the government to bear the full cost of this RAAC building repairing under the DfE.

According to the Department for Education's Condition of School Buildings Survey, UK schools suffered a repairing cost of £11.4 billion in 2021. The June 2023, National Audit Office report on conditions of school buildings revealed 700,000 students are studying under school buildings in need of refurbishment.

The British government puts the onus on UK schools

Meanwhile, UK cabinet member for children's services Penny Carpenter issued a statement regarding the RAAC concrete collapse in schools where she acknowledged that the UK government had been aware of the issue since 2018.

Carpenter said that the NPS structural engineers surveyed 83 school buildings since then and no building was flagged. The child services department is trying to keep up with the DfE guidance on RAAC and they will undertake additional assessments to ensure the safety of students wherever necessary, Carpenter added.

Carpenter underlined that schools are independent bodies and don't fall under the council but despite that the department has asked schools to flag RAAC issues three times since 2018. They have also been asked to complete the DfE survey in June.

The Children's Services cabinet minister asked parents to pressurise the schools and discuss the RAAC concrete collapse issue.

List of RAAC-affected UK schools

Here is a list of RAAC-affected schools that have been closed down in the UK schools:

  1. Hadleigh High School, Suffolk
  2. Farlingaye High School, Woodbridge, Suffolk
  3. Claydon High School, Suffolk, East of England
  4. Honywood School, Colchester, Essex
  5. Jerounds Primary School, Harlow, Essex
  6. Katherine's Primary Academy, Harlow, Essex
  7. Clacton County High School, Essex
  8. Kingsdown School in Southend, Essex
  9. East Tilbury Primary School, Thurrock, Essex
  10. Buckhurst Hill Community Primary School, Essex
  11. Thameside Primary School, Essex
  12. East Bergholt High School, Colchester, Essex
  13. Thurstable school and sixth form, Essex
  14. The Billericay School, Essex
  15. The Appleton School, Essex
  16. Woodville Primary School, Chelmsford, Essex
  17. Arthur Bugler Primary School, Thurrock, Essex
  18. Buckhurst Hill Community Primary School, Essex
  19. The Coopers' Company and Coburn School, Essex
  20. The Gilberd School, Colchester, Essex
  21. St Andrew's Junior School, Hatfield Peverel, Essex
  22. Hockley Primary School, Essex
  23. Ramsey Academy, Halstead, Essex
  24. Ravens Academy, Clacton-On-Sea, Essex
  25. Roding Valley High School, Loughton, Essex
  26. Mayflower Primary School, Leicester, East Midlands
  27. Parks Primary School, Leicester, East Midlands
  28. Willowbrook Mead Primary Academy, Leicester
  29. Northampton International Academy, Northampton
  30. Aston Manor academy, Birmingham
  31. Aylesford School, Warwick
  32. Wood Green Academy, Wednesbury
  33. Donnington Wood Infants School, Telford, Shropshire
  34. Myton School, Warwick, Warwickshire
  35. Outwoods Primary School, Atherstone, North Warwickshire
  36. Pershore High School, Worcestershire
  37. St Bede's Catholic School and Byron Sixth Form College, Peterlee, County Durham
  38. St Anne's Catholic Primary School, Harlow Green, Newcastle upon Tyne, North East England
  39. St Benet's Catholic Primary School, Ouston, Newcastle upon Tyne, North East England
  40. St Leonards Catholic School, Durham
  41. Ferryhill School, County Durham
  42. St James Catholic Primary School, Hebburn, South Tyneside
  43. St Teresa's Catholic Primary School, Darlington
  44. Carmel College, Darlington
  45. Abbey Lane Primary School, Sheffield
  46. Eldwick Primary School, Bingley, West Yorkshire
  47. Eldwick Primary School, Bingley, West Yorkshire
  48. Crossflatts Primary School in Bingley, near Bradford, Yorkshire and the Humber
  49. Scalby School, Scarborough, Yorkshire and the Humber
  50. Cleeve Park School, Sidcup, London
  51. St Thomas More Catholic Comprehensive, Eltham, London
  52. Corpus Christi Catholic School in Brixton, London
  53. The Ellen Wilkinson School, London
  54. Cockermouth School, Cockermouth, Cumbria
  55. St Bernard's School, Bolton, Greater Manchester
  56. Our Lady's Catholic High School, Preston, Lancashire
  57. Cranbourne College in Basingstoke, Hampshire
  58. St Francis Catholic Primary School in Ascot, Berkshire
  59. St Clere's school, Stanford-le-Hope, Essex
  60. Greenway Junior School, Horsham, West Sussex, South East England
  61. Ysgol David Hughes and Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi in Anglesey (Ynys Môn), North Wales