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New figures published by the government reveal that the number of schools in England dealing with deteriorating concrete has reached 174. This number has increased from

147 as of August 30th, with an additional 27 schools affected as of September 14th.

Officials have been conducting regular inspections of schools, checking for reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, known as Raac. The government has committed to updating this list every two weeks.

Despite the growing number of confirmed Raac cases, more students in affected schools have been able to return to full-time, in-person education since the initial list was released. A few schools had to delay their September term restart due to the presence of Raac. However, there is only one school where pupils are still engaged in full remote learning, down from four two weeks ago. Twenty-three schools are now providing a mix of face-to-face and remote learning, up from 20 on August 30th.

Fortunately, there are currently no schools closed as a result of Raac following the summer holidays. In the initial set of figures, there were 19 schools either closed or delaying their term start due to Raac.

Additionally, three post-16 education settings have been added to the list of sites affected by crumbling concrete.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan emphasized that the government is taking a cautious approach. She praised school and local leaders for ensuring that the majority of settings with confirmed Raac continue to offer face-to-face learning.

Raac, a lightweight material used primarily in flat roofing, floors, and walls between the 1950s and 1990s, is a more cost-effective alternative to standard concrete with a lifespan of about 30 years. Officials have been aware of Raac issues for decades. However, insufficient funding over the years increased the risk of building collapses, according to a National Audit Office report in June. This summer, a Raac panel classified as "non-critical" collapsed at an English school, prompting the decision to take action.

Education Minister Baroness Barran and the Department for Education's Permanent Secretary Susan Acland-Hood addressed questions from the education select committee regarding the crisis. They provided information about the need for temporary classrooms and the orders placed for such facilities. However, figures for the number of classrooms already delivered were not available.

Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) union, called for a clear plan to repair and replace damaged buildings over a more extended period.

In Scotland, schools in 16 local authorities have been found to contain Raac. Northern Ireland's Education Authority will conduct surveys at 120 schools to check for the presence of the concrete.

The situation has forced students like Elliot, a year 8 pupil at Myton School in Warwick, to engage in remote learning, with part of his school closed due to Raac. He expressed frustration about the situation and worries about falling behind in his education if it continues. Photo by Chris McAndrew, Wikimedia commons.