Sheffield RAAC: 'Crumbly concrete' in schools is 'one of biggest scandals ever', says Louise Haigh MP

"The most thing we would expect from a Government is to protect children while they are in school."
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A Sheffield MP has called the crisis of 'crumbly' RAAC concrete in schools "one of the biggest scandals she's ever seen".

Thousands of children across England face disruption on the first day of school on September 5 over serious safety risks in schools.

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At least 104 schools have been completely shut on orders by the D for Education over the presence of an 'unsafe' and "susceptible to failure" material called reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in buildings.

A Sheffield MP has called the crisis of RAAC in schools "one of the biggest scandals she's ever seen". Photo of classroom sign by Jacob King/PA Wire.A Sheffield MP has called the crisis of RAAC in schools "one of the biggest scandals she's ever seen". Photo of classroom sign by Jacob King/PA Wire.
A Sheffield MP has called the crisis of RAAC in schools "one of the biggest scandals she's ever seen". Photo of classroom sign by Jacob King/PA Wire.

Further, evidence shows the Government was told in 2018 of the "critical risk to life" it posed, only for then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak - the current PM - to slash the budget for rebuilding schools in half over four years.

Now, Sheffield Heeley's MP Louise Haigh has slammed the Government for "knowing children have been in a dangerous position since 2018" and "frankly dragging their feet.

She told BBC Radio Sheffield: "The situation nationally for children is totally unacceptable. I really think of all the things I've seen as an MP it is one of the most scandalous.

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. Photo: Jacob King/PA WireA 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. Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire
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. Photo: Jacob King/PA Wire
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"They have known children have been in a dangerous position ever since 2018 and, frankly, they have been dragging their feet."

A single Sheffield school - Abbey Lane Primary - has so far been affected but is opening as normal on September 5.

£620,000 of repairs to replace the material in the school's kitchen have been underway since July, before the crisis was nationally publicised.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt says the Government will fund all repairs for affected school - but no new money will be allocated for it, and will come out of existing budgets.

Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan has stated the number of schools affected by RAAC may be far higher.Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan has stated the number of schools affected by RAAC may be far higher.
Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan has stated the number of schools affected by RAAC may be far higher.
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It comes weeks after The Star revealed over £100m of repairs are needed across all of Sheffield 62 maintained schools - despite a budget of just £3.5m a year from the DfE for this.

Ms Haigh said: "The most basic thing we would expect from a Government is to protect children while they are in school. Now, we know that the Government is not going to step in and fund the repairs and maintenance with any new money, and again the council has had to step in and pay for the repairs - which means other schools will go without their repairs."

It comes as Secretary of State for Education Gillian Keegan this morning announced the DfE's method historically for assessing which schools have RAAC has been by sending them a survey, asking them to find out for themselves, and report back.

As many as 10 per cent of schools in England - 1,500 - have not replied to these surveys, meaning up to hundreds of more schools could be standing with the 'unsafe' material without knowing.

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Ms Keegan has dismissed criticism that the DfE had not yet published the full list of which schools were affected nationwide, and said it will be released within the week.

Ms Haigh said: "The Government clearly knows more than they are letting on.

"The problem could be bigger than we now know. There could be even more than 104 schools that are at urgent risk because of the haphazard assessment of just letting schools do it themselves. How are they meant to know that they've got RAAC? No one working there would have been there when it was built.

"It's just a complete shambles."