In the UK, hundreds more schools are at risk of being declared unsafe due to the risk of collapse. Before the weekend, 104 schools were forced to close (partially) as a precaution due to rotting concrete in the buildings. This problem seems to be bigger now.
The reason is RAAC, a brittle type of concrete that was widely used between the 1950s and 1980s in the construction of all types of government buildings, including hospitals and police stations. The material was used for ceilings, floors and walls, among other things, and at the time was a cheaper alternative to “regular concrete”.
But RAAC also has a major drawback: it only lasts about thirty years and is prone to rotting. The Health and Safety Agency warned that many buildings have now run out of materials and could suddenly collapse. This already happened in 2016 with part of a school building in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Today, British Education Secretary Gillian Keegan warned that hundreds more school buildings could be unsafe because of concrete. This will become clear in the coming weeks: all schools that may have been built using RAAC will be extensively inspected within two weeks.
British media write that rotting concrete is a problem for many schools. Schools are facing a sudden shortage of classrooms, meaning thousands of students cannot attend. Some schools are shifting to online teaching again.
A problem for Prime Minister Sunak
It appears that rotting concrete has become a nuisance for Prime Minister Sunak. It has been known for years that the RAAC has a limited lifespan. But Sunak made major cuts to repairs to public buildings in his previous role as Chancellor of the Exchequer. At least that’s what a former senior ministry official says. According to Jonathan Slater, the British government was warned in 2018 that between 300 and 400 schools needed renovation annually, but the government did not allocate sufficient budget for this.
Meanwhile, Sunak appears less pessimistic than his minister Keegan: the Prime Minister has previously said he expects that out of 22,000 British schools, 95 per cent will have no problems with RAAC. Furthermore, Sunak said, it cannot be ruled out that problems in some schools could be limited to one or two semesters. In the BBC He also strongly denied responsibility for the cuts.
The opposition has now criticized Sunak’s government, partly because of the timing of the lockdown: today was the first day after the summer holidays. Labor also says the case shows the Conservatives have made unfair cuts to the public sector in recent years.
“Infuriatingly humble social media buff. Twitter advocate. Writer. Internet nerd.”