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Headteachers warn there’s ‘no end in sight’ to concrete crisis in schools

Scaffolding and work being done on school buildings
Thousands of children have been impacted by the concrete crisis (Picture: PA / getty)

Hundreds of schools had to stay shut last week due to the ongoing concrete crisis and union leaders still don’t know when it will end.

Pupils saw their return to schools for the new term disrupted due to safety fears over collapse-prone concrete that has been found in buildings around the country.

A total of 147 schools in the UK have been found to contain reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), meaning they have had to fully or partially close, or deliver a mixture of online and face-to-face learning.

Now headteachers are complaining about being left in the dark over the extent of the crisis as they try to minimise the impact it is having on young people’s learning.

And Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) union told the Mirror there is ‘no end in sight’ in this crisis and they currently ‘don’t know how many schools could be affected’.

Mr Whiteman said: ‘School leaders are working flat out to minimise the impact of this crisis upon pupils.

A taped off section inside Parks Primary School in Leicester which has been affected with sub standard reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac). More than 100 schools, nurseries and colleges in England have been told by the Government to close classrooms and other buildings that contain an aerated concrete that is prone to collapse. Picture date: Friday September 1, 2023. PA Photo. A
Pupils at schools affected by the crisis are being taught through a mix of online and face-to-face learning (Picture: PA)
Caroline Evans, head teacher of Parks Primary School in Leicester stands next to a taped off section inside the school which has been affected with sub standard reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac). More than 100 schools, nurseries and colleges in England have been told by the Government to close classrooms and other buildings that contain an aerated concrete that is prone to collapse. Picture date: Friday September 1, 2023. PA Photo. A
Some schools have had to close or partially close, with teaching being delivered via a mixture of online and face-to-face classes (Picture: PA)

‘However, we still don’t know how many schools could be affected, and delays in getting surveys done and the disruption caused by work to tackle the issue means there is currently no end in sight.’

He added that, despite the best efforts of the union’s members, the disruption to lessons and teaching will have an inevitable impact on the children affected.

General secretary of the NASUWT, the Teachers’ Union, Dr Patrick Roach said it’s ‘anyone’s guess’ how long the crumbling concrete crisis could last due to the absence of a national register or plan.

He said the lack of plan means the situation is only ‘set to get worse rather than better’, adding that the government’s handling of the crisis so far has been ‘inept’.

epa10845759 A sign at the entrance to Woodwork Academy, which is included on a list published by the UK government of schools affected by reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in Tingley, Britain, 07 September 2023. Over 150 schools have been advised to close all or some of their buildings due to the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), a building material used widely from the 1950???s to 1990???s which can fail once it has exceeded it???s fixed lifespan of 30 years. EPA/ADAM VAUGHAN
Some schools have had to close over safety fears due to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Picture: EPA)
Work takes places to fix issues related to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) at Hornsey School for Girls in London, Britain, 05 September 2023. More than 100 schools in Britain experiencing issues with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) and in some cases students need to relocate to different schools with safety concerns.
Headteachers feel they’ve been left in the dark over how long the crisis will go on for (Picture: EPA)

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders said that once again schools are ‘rising to a challenge which they could not possibly have foreseen – and it is a great shame that the government did not act much sooner over an issue that it has known about since 2018’.

He said that, despite this, schools will be working very hard to minimise disruption to children’s education and continue to deliver ‘excellent learning as they always do’.

Mr Barton added that it’s difficult to put a timescale on how long it will take to resolve the building safety issues in a number of schools.

As the crisis continues it has emerged that the government failed to carry out surveys that would have highlighted issues like asbestos and crumbly concrete before buying sites for free schools.

Documents the Observer has seen suggests the government agency that had the task of buying sites for the free schools project bought disused buildings but didn’t undertake the surveys that experts say are vital.

The concrete crisis has also impacted other public buildings including medical centres, council officers and police stations.

The use of RAAC largely impacts buildings built between the 1950s and 1980s.

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at

For more stories like this, check our news page.


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