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Utility firms asked if they could supply temporary classrooms for five years amid school concrete crisis

6 September 2023, 17:07 | Updated: 7 September 2023, 10:58

Officials asked utility firms if they could supply temporary classrooms in the concrete crisis for five years
Officials asked utility firms if they could supply temporary classrooms in the concrete crisis for five years. Picture: Alamy
Charlotte Lynch

By Charlotte Lynch

Government officials discussed using temporary classrooms for as long as five years at a meeting with utilities companies on Tuesday, LBC has revealed.

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In an indication of how long the Raac crisis could grip schools for, it was suggested at a roundtable with firms providing heating, electricity, and internet connection to marquees and portacabins at schools across the UK that they would be able to provide their services until 2028.

A source told LBC a roundtable meeting between the Department for Education and companies providing the vital services took place on Tuesday, and was attended by schools minister Baroness Barran.

When contacted by LBC, the department dismissed claims it explicitly requested the services for five years, but could not deny that the potential long-term need for the temporary structures to be equipped to function as classrooms was raised.

Gillian Keegan has told schools to move out of buildings containing Raac
Gillian Keegan has told schools to move out of buildings containing Raac. Picture: Alamy

It comes as the government published the list of nearly 150 education settings with collapse-prone reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac).

A total of 147 education settings in England have been affected, with pupils at 24 schools across England receiving some remote learning, and four schools switching to fully remote learning.

The list also showed 19 schools where the start of term has had to be delayed as a result of collapse-prone concrete. Whilst teaching is being delivered in-person at 100 others, there are mitigations in place such as temporary structures, with some teaching being delivered off-site in offices and university buildings.

Children's commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza said on Wednesday that rebuilding a school can take years.

Dame Rachel, a former head-teacher who has managed 15 school rebuilds and refurbishments, told LBC's Andrew Marr: "It does take time if you’re doing a school rebuild."

She added: "It does take time and really careful planning to rebuild a school. We are talking years when we’re talking a school rebuild.

"That means children taught in alternative accommodation."

Schools are going to have to undergo repairs to ensure they are safe from collapse
Schools are going to have to undergo repairs to ensure they are safe from collapse. Picture: Alamy

In a written statement, education secretary Gillian Keegan, said: "I know this is the last way parents, teachers and children affected by this wanted to begin the new term, but it will always be my priority to ensure the safety of pupils and staff.

"Thanks to the hard work of schools, colleges, councils, diocese and academy trusts, the majority of settings where Raac has been confirmed have opened to all pupils for the start of term.

"We will continue to support all impacted settings in whatever way we can, whether that's through our team of dedicated caseworkers or through capital funding to put mitigations in place.

"We are also expediting surveys and urging all responsible bodies to tell us what they know about Raac, so we can be confident that settings are safe and supported."

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