RAAC

RAAC: DfE snubbed schools’ bids for flagship rebuilding scheme

Ten schools now confirmed with RAAC applied for the current school rebuilding programme, but were rejected

Ten schools now confirmed with RAAC applied for the current school rebuilding programme, but were rejected

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The government snubbed bids for its flagship new rebuilding scheme from 10 schools that have since been confirmed to have RAAC, Schools Week analysis shows.

Four of the schools also had work under the building schools for the future programme scrapped.

Schools Week revealed yesterday that at least 11 schools that had rebuilds cancelled under the flagship Labour scheme when the Conservatives came to power had now been confirmed to contain RAAC.

That number has been revised up by Labour analysis to 19 today, after a list of affected schools was published by the government.

Boris Johnson unveiled a new rebuilding programme in 2021, vowing that 500 schools would be rebuilt over the following decade. Applications were sought last year, and received from over 1,100 schools.

However, almost 800 were rejected, including ten now identified as having RAAC.

Some schools were chosen based on condition need alone before nominations, meaning 400 of the 500 schools set for rebuilds have been named. But just four have been built so far.

School closes block it wanted to replace

Myton School in Warwick was rejected for a rebuild last year.

In a letter to parents, seen by Schools Week, head Andy Perry said the “fact that the DfE has directed us to close the block that they refused to rebuild back in December 2022, declaring it structurally sound, is embarrassing”.

The school has lost a third of its teaching space, and in the short term will rotate attendance between year groups, with five on site and two remote learning each day.

He said this year “was going to be the start of a new improvement plan which we had designed on the back of our successful Ofsted, some good exam results and following quite a lot of reorganisation to improve behaviour and engagement”.

“What is important is that it is still these things despite the bombshell dropped on us last Friday. So whilst this is not the start we wanted, it will be the year we want, your kids will get the deal from us you expect, and it will be successful. And one way or another we’ll get a new building out of it.”

‘We have slipped through the net’

Scalby School in Scarborough was built in 1942 and is now “past its sell-by date”, according to Michael McCluskie, deputy CEO of the Coast and Vale Learning Trust. The school applied for a full rebuild on a new site under the current rebuilding programme, but was rejected.

The trust reported the identification of RAAC on its site to the DfE via its questionnaire last year, but “there had been no suggestion of failure or collapse”.

Around 90 support posts were installed to shore up the structure, and the trust was planning more work this term before the DfE told it to partially close the school.

McCluskie said he had received a “positive indication” the school will now be rebuilt due to its “extensive” RAAC, but no firm commitment from the DfE.

He said he felt the school had “slipped through the net in terms of priority” to the department. A lack of visual structural issues during its condition survey had made it “easy to sweep away”, he believes.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT school leaders’ union, said the revelation “demonstrates that this is not a problem that has suddenly arisen out of the blue but has been made much worse as a result of political decisions over a number of years”.

Geoff Barton, from the ASCL leaders’ union, said it “may well be the case that if more schools had been included in the programme and the number of rebuilds had been greater, this would have been dealt with earlier and these schools would not now be having to cope with huge disruption”.

Some schools also had BSF projects canned

Other schools confirmed to have RAAC by the DfE today that were turned down recently for rebuilds include The Appleton School in Essex, London Oratory School, Hornsey School for Girls and Bishop Douglass School Finchley.

All four also had planned rebuilds cancelled when the Conservatives scrapped building schools for the future.

Welbourne Primary School, Anglo European School, The FitzWimarc School and Brandhall Primary School were also rejected under the school rebuilding programme.

Gillian Keegan
Gillian Keegan

The government also faces questions about whether projects already announced under the current rebuilding scheme will now be postponed due to the need to prioritise those with RAAC.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan told MPs on Monday that she believed rebuilds “will still be going ahead if they have already been approved”.

But she said projects would be “based on condition and need” and pledged to tell MPs whether projects in their areas would be “prioritised”.

Barton said he was “very concerned that the government’s commitment to fund the cost of dealing with RAAC appears to come out of the DfE’s existing capital budget”.

“This is very likely to squeeze other capital spending and could mean that other schools miss out on essential refurbishments.”

A DfE spokesperson said it was “committed to rebuilding 500 schools over the next decade as part of the schools rebuilding programme and we are on track to deliver that. That is on top of 520 schools already delivered since 2015 under the priority schools building programme.

“The school rebuilding programme is in its initial stages of delivery and there will be an increase in the number of projects beginning construction in the next year.”

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