Alex writes to…

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Alex has written to Secretary of State for Education, Gillian Keegan, over concerns regarding the safety of school buildings constructed with Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).

This is a matter of huge concern for parents, pupils, and teachers in Great Yarmouth ahead of the school year and further clarification is needed on several issues including timelines for repairs, whether students will be transferred to other schools, and how Free School Meals and other provisions such as breakfast clubs will continue.

You can read the letter below:

Dear Secretary of State,

I am writing to you as the Labour candidate for Great Yarmouth, deeply concerned about the recent revelations regarding the safety of school buildings constructed with Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).

It has come to my attention that over 100 schools have been ordered to fully or partially shut amid RAAC concrete safety fears, potentially putting thousands of pupils at risk, with thousands more schools potentially affected.

This is a matter of huge concern for parents, pupils and teachers in Great Yarmouth and indeed, for the entire country.

The guidance published by the Department for Education on Thursday 31 August 2023 is unclear, and I seek further clarification on several points:

Scope of the Problem: Can you specify the number of educational facilities that have been impacted by the presence of RAAC concrete?

Initial Discovery and Risk Evaluation: At what point did the Department for Education first identify the issue with RAAC concrete? Have any formal risk assessments or studies been undertaken, and over what duration?

Duration of Repair Work: What is the estimated timeline for completing the necessary repairs in affected schools? How long will students face disruptions during this process?

Relocation of Students: Is it anticipated that students will need to transfer to different schools as a result of this issue?

Permanent Solutions: While temporary safety measures like supporting ceilings have been suggested, what are the long-term strategies for removing and replacing RAAC concrete to ensure student safety?

Role of Portacabins: Minister for Schools Nick Gibb has indicated that portacabins will be funded as an alternative. Is this intended to be a temporary measure or a lasting solution?

Educational Disruption: In light of the already considerable interruptions caused by the pandemic, is there a plan to revert to online learning for students in affected buildings? What support mechanisms are in place for this transition?

Impact on Vulnerable Families: Given that schools serve as a crucial resource for meals, breakfast clubs, and warm buildings for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, have any impact assessments been conducted concerning the transition to temporary settings like portacabins?

Full School Closures and Meal Provisions: In the event that schools are fully closed, how will they be financially supported to continue providing free school meals to eligible students in temporary settings?

Provisions for SEND Schools: Is there earmarked funding for SEND schools that are impacted by the RAAC issue? What plans exist for relocating specialised equipment?

Presence in Other Public Facilities: Is the government aware of RAAC concrete being used in other public buildings such as hospitals, nurseries, medical practices, and recreational centres?

Childcare Contingencies: What plans and support are in place for parents to mitigate the impact on childcare if RAAC is discovered in nursery buildings?

Timing of Public Disclosure: Given that the government has had knowledge of this issue for years, why was the announcement made now and so close to the commencement of the new academic year?

Temporary Contracts: Will teaching staff on term-time only contracts get paid if schools are forced to close?

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