ASCL calls for urgent answers over crumbling concrete crisis

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, will today be writing to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan calling for clarification on a number of issues arising from the RAAC crisis.
He said: “The Education Secretary this morning said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that 1,500 questionnaires sent to schools asking for information about whether RAAC might be present are outstanding and have not been completed. We need to know what the Department for Education is now doing to chase up those questionnaires as a matter of the utmost urgency. These questionnaires were sent out before the crisis erupted over the past few days and we are not blaming the schools concerned. However, it is now incumbent upon the DfE to gather this information as soon as possible so that staff, parents and children can be fully confident that the DfE has a full picture of the presence of RAAC and is taking the appropriate action where necessary.
“We continue to be very concerned about the lack of clarity over the funding arrangements for dealing with RAAC. The DfE’s guidance says that it will provide funding for mitigation works that are capital funded but not additional revenue costs such as transport. Schools need an assurance that capital funding covers not just the cost of mitigating immediate risks with emergency measures but the long-term cost of replacing buildings where this is necessary. Additional revenue costs must also be covered by the DfE, for example where children have to be transported to an alternative site. Schools cannot afford unbudgeted costs.
“We are also concerned about reports that the funding for this issue will come from the DfE’s existing capital budget. It is likely that this would put pressure on the existing programme of repairs and refurbishment. Capital funding has been cut by 50% in real terms since 2010 and needs to be increased rather than squeezed further. The DfE’s former permanent secretary Jonathan Slater has today told the Radio 4 Today Programme that the Treasury under Rishi Sunak refused to fund the number of school rebuilding projects identified by the DfE despite evidence of a critical risk to life. We need to hear a full explanation from Mr Sunak.”