Schools crisis as concrete woes deepen

Just as our children were about to return to School after the long summer break a  crisis struck: a Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) beam collapsed without warning in a school. The government had known for years that buildings using RAAC were approaching the end of their lifespans and that collapses were a risk.

The decision to close schools was undoubtedly the right one given the risks to our children and teachers. But why are we in this situation? The answer to that sorry tale lies in 13 years of disastrous Tory failure.

One of the first things that the Conservative dominated coalition government did when it came to power was to axe  Labour’s Building Schools for the Future Scheme. This scheme had already refurbished or rebuilt 180 schools and was planned to have revamped all of England’s 3500 schools by this year. But it was cut by the then Education Secretary Michael Gove. We know that some of the schools that were going to be rebuilt by Labour’s Building Schools for the Future scheme contain RAAC.

Back in 2020 the Department for Education identified 3-400 schools requiring repairs. They asked the treasury, run by the then Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP, for funding to fix 200 – half the number needed. In 2021 it was decided to only fix 50 schools a year. Rishi Sunak was quick to leap to his own defence, denying that he was responsible for the funding crisis – even though he was chancellor at the time. It seems the Ministers were more interested in shiny new infrastructure, and posing in hard hats, than mundane maintenance of our critical school buildings.  Meanwhile our current Education Secretary Gillian Keegan thinks we should be grateful to her for doing such a good job. Little wonder Labour Leader Keir Starmer has described the Government’s handling of this situation as a ‘farce‘.

The new term has started. Across the country there are children being taught in unsuitable spaces, marquees and even online. After Covid and all the challenges that our children have faced they deserve better. Yet the government has only today released a list of all the schools affected by this issue.

So far, we are not aware of any schools containing RAAC in Northumberland but our friends and neighbours elsewhere in the North East are struggling with this issue.

Fixing the concrete crisis is going to be expensive. Other problems, like asbestos, will be discovered. It’s also not just schools. Hospital, theatres and other public and private buildings also used this construction material. Sorting this Tory mess out is going to be disruptive. It could have been avoided with a planned and coherent programme of refurbishment. Labour had that plan, Guy Opperman and the Tories cut it.

Tory Britain is crumbling

We need to Build a Better Britain

Conservative Britain is crumbling. A weak and incompetent government, led by a lacklustre team, have made one terrible decision after another. Think back, it was only a year ago that Liz Truss was made PM followed by her 49 days of chaos. The country has staggered from one crisis to another and the British people have had enough.

Later today Keir Starmer and his government in waiting will hold the Tories to account in the Commons. We need a Labour Government, we need to Build a Better Britain, a fairer, greener future for us all and especially our children.

Join the Labour Party

Right across Hexham Constituency Labour Party members are working to Build a Better Britain and get Guy Opperman out after 13 disastrous years of Conservative government.

If you’d like to get involved please consider joining the party or making a donation.