Children’s safety must come first in our schools, says Grantham MP Gareth Davies
As the summer comes to an end, our children are heading back to school for the new academic year.
While this week is always a busy time for parents and teachers, I recognise that reporting regarding Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in schools will have concerned many parents.
Between the 1950s and 1990s, RAAC was commonly used as a lightweight form of concrete, and advice from technical experts has evolved over time, with the management of the risk associated with RAAC spanning successive Governments since 1994.
In 2018, the Government issued guidance to schools where RAAC was believed to be present to have contingency measures in place, and from 2022, we began to survey all 22,500 English schools.
So far, RAAC has been confirmed in only 164 schools nationally, of which 52 deemed ‘critical’ have already been working with the Government and engineers to put mitigations in place.
As the Prime Minister set out clearly at Prime Minister’s Questions, following cases as recent as last week, the technical advice has changed, and the Government has acted swiftly to take further steps. The remaining 104 schools deemed ‘non-critical’ have now been advised to vacate affected areas until further safety measures are in place. As protecting our children and the staff in our schools is of paramount importance, while the timing is unfortunate, with pupils eager to return to school, this is a precautionary but crucial step.
It is important to note that spaces impacted by RAAC could be as small as a boiler room in an outbuilding, so it is unlikely that affected schools will close entirely, and financial support is being provided so that lessons can still take place.
To date, RAAC has not been confirmed at any schools or colleges in the constituency of Grantham and Stamford, but I am of course following this closely for our area as the final local surveys are completed.
Overall, to drive improvements in safety and quality, our schools have benefitted from over £13 billion in capital funding since 2015, including £1.8 billion for this year alone. School standards have also risen with 88% of schools now rated ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, up from 68% in 2010.
Regularly, I get to see this significant improvement first-hand at a local level, dropping-by on local schools to see our wonderful teachers and pupils in action. I have always been clear how important it is to me that local children are able to attend schools in which they are safe and happy, but also that provide them with a first-class education so they can grasp every opportunity in life.
Finally, I was saddened by the recent news of Cllr Ray Wootten’s passing. As a District and a County Councillor, Ray’s dedication to our community will always be remembered, not least by the many people he helped.
He was a true public servant not just as an elected representative but also through his service in the Royal Air Force and as a police officer.
I will always be grateful to have known and worked with Ray and I send my deepest condolences to his wife Linda and the whole family at this sad time.