Britain Closes More Than 150 Schools Due to Faulty Concrete
Britain’s Education Department has ordered more than 150 schools to close buildings constructed with RAAC, a type of concrete that is prone to collapse. The decision came just days before the fall term is set to start, drawing fire from parents, teachers and politicians.
A roof beam gave way over the summer, prompting the British government to examine the risks of RAAC, Schools Minister Nick Gibb told the BBC recently. The past few months have seen a number of instances where buildings containing RAAC suddenly failed, both at schools and elsewhere.
Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, or RAAC, is lightweight and was used in construction until the mid-1990s. RAAC has a lifespan of about 30 years.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan described the government’s decision as a “cautious approach.” She reassured the public that the most affected schools would remain open because the faulty concrete was found in limited areas.
But some campuses face total closure, sending teachers and parents scrambling for alternatives from relocating students to neighboring schools to reviving coronavirus-era distance learning.
Part of the shock of the government’s announcement is that it has long known about the risks of RAAC. More than 50 school buildings with RAAC have been closed in the past over safety concerns.
In June, the watchdog group National Audit Office reported about the dangers that school buildings constructed with RAAC pose to students and teachers. It cited a strong likelihood of injury or death from an imploding building.
These developments follow six months of teachers’ strikes across the United Kingdom spurred by charges of underfunding and poor government outreach.
Critics from all sides describe the mass closures as a debacle. Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union, said in a statement that the situation reflected “gross government incompetence.”
In the run-up to the general election expected in 2024, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will have to consider how to win the public’s confidence and counter ridicule over his efforts in infrastructure and education.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Reuters.