As British Schools Crumble

As the summer holidays ended in England and Wales, the Department for Education ordered over 100 school buildings to be fully or partially closed due to the dangers caused by a collapse-prone form of concrete.  

Rishi Sunak, while chancellor of the Exchequer, hosting a school visit in 2002. (Tim Hammond / No 10 Downing Street)

By Peoples Dispatch

Reports of unsafe conditions in schools and other public utility buildings, including hospitals and residential apartments, due to the use of RAAC, a less durable form of concrete, have triggered outrage in the U.K.

As schools in England and Wales reopened in September after the summer holidays, the Department for Education ordered over 100 schools to be fully or partially closed due to the imminent danger of collapse of roofs, ceilings, and other parts of the buildings where reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) had been used. 

The Labour Party, the Communist Party of Britain (CPB) and trade unions including the National Education Union (NEU), NASUWT, and others, have slammed the negligence of the Tory government which continues to make cuts in public infrastructure development and has failed to upgrade school buildings.

A general sense of panic has struck the country as more and more reports come out of buildings including hospitals, theaters, residential blocks and government offices which have been affected by the use of RAAC.

A document published by the Department for Education on Aug. 31, and updated on Sept. 6, lists 147 educational institutions that have used RAAC and require attention.

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RAAC, which is lightweight and cheap, was widely used in the U.K. from the 1950s to the 1980s until complaints about its quality and usage surfaced by the 1990s.

In the last decade, several RAAC failures were reported from schools and other buildings across the country, but no significant holistic redressal attempts were made by the government.

On the contrary, the Tory government slashed the budget for school renovations and rebuilding in 2010. Current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak also faced criticism when he was the chancellor of the exchequer for refusing to release sufficient funds to the Department for Education to rebuild the around 300-400 RAAC-affected schools. 

Detail of air bubbles in aerated autoclaved concrete component of RAAC, which reduce the material’s density. (Marco Bernardini, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Earlier this month, the government refused to compensate the RAAC-affected schools for finding alternative mechanisms to run classes, sparking outrage from teachers. The government was ultimately forced to backtrack on its stance.

[Related: Craig Murray: Destitution Capitalism]

NEU General Secretary Daniel Kebede, while addressing the Trade Union Congress (TUC) meeting in Liverpool on Sept. 12, said

“the Tory Government’s education policy merges austerity with a deep hostility towards those working in schools and an indifference to those studying in them. These qualities have shaped the incompetent policy-making that has dominated the last 13 years. The pandemic and its aftermath displayed this combination in disastrous technicolor, and the teacher recruitment and retention crisis provided further evidence of its effects. From this perspective, we should see the dramatic emergence of the RAAC scandal as a third, but probably not final, act.

“What has long been known by unions, building experts, and civil servants has [this month] become a public scandal: schools told to close because they have been discovered to pose a risk to life; more than a hundred have been partially evacuated. These numbers will rise.  And it’s not just RAAC — according to the National Audit Office 700,000 children every day are taught in schools in need of desperate repair; 90% of schools still contain asbestos, creating a level of risk well beyond what is acceptable to expose our children to.”

This article is from Peoples Dispatch.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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8 comments for “As British Schools Crumble

  1. Arch Stanton
    September 19, 2023 at 16:57

    The Tory party do not govern, their sole purpose is to decimate and run down the entire public sector in order to privatise it. The dumb brainwashed electorate keep voting for these neoliberal degenerates repeatedly thanks to a media that supports a small state, low tax and non-domiciled status for our oligarchs.

    All the progress this society made in the last 100+ years was for nothing, they should have been drowned at birth.
    Unfortunately, Starmer will carry on regardless

  2. Onlooker
    September 19, 2023 at 11:07

    Why should the people running the British government be especially concerned? They don’t send their children to those sort of schools, or live in those apartment blocks, or go to those hospitals when they hospital care…

    And their army of spin docutors, disinformation specialists, and other propagandists can be relied upon to keep enough of the people who do, in line.

  3. Vera Gottlieb
    September 19, 2023 at 09:33

    “Rule Britannia” is becoming more like “sink” Britannia. The days of glory coming to an end – shame that so many are made to suffer because of it.

  4. Steve
    September 19, 2023 at 04:33

    The tory government(s) are happy to spray money, they don’t have, at useless, fantasy projects like: Ukraine, Covid, Climate, HS2, Foreign Aid, etc. but they won’t spend a penny on poverty, education, health for its citizens. Follow the money and the corruption becomes obvious.

  5. bill
    September 18, 2023 at 23:35

    Labour is just another sad neoliberal economic party however ….. nothing will change.

  6. bobzz
    September 18, 2023 at 22:35

    If America finally crosses the redline that prompts Russia to retaliate on the US and all of its Eurpoean vassals, watch the RAAC construction disintegrate. NATO leadership with America in the lead have lost its collective head.

  7. wildthange
    September 18, 2023 at 20:58

    I’m sure they are increasing military funding as part of NATO. Meanwhile critical infrastructure will be stressed by climate change everywhere in the world. Human civilization needs to invest in the real threats to civilization rather than promoting wars for excessive profits for defense industry and promoting military professional dominance of society. Th military protection racket is in a runaway process condition.

  8. CaseyG
    September 18, 2023 at 17:05

    WOW, I guess in the UK, kids aren’t all that important. I wonder when the first kids will die from a school wall falling down on them? It does seem that many nations aren’t at all concerned about children actually growing up—although that does cut down on future workers and builders of that nation.

    I suppose that the UK like many nations, including the USA, is more interested in children growing up in order to create some kind of a standing army. To have a future? Oh that won’t concern those running the nations—unless, of course they are ,”to the manner born.” Human beings can be so depressing.

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