As it happenedended1694012153

Schools concrete crisis: Starmer attacks Sunak’s Tory ‘cowboys’ as full list of closures revealed

Prime minister ‘makes no apology’ for Raac decisions as Labour asks if he is ‘ashamed’ over crisis caused by 13 years of ‘botched jobs’

Maryam Zakir-Hussain
Wednesday 06 September 2023 15:55 BST
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Expert explains why Raac is more dangerous than standard concrete

Sir Keir Starmer has blamed the crumbling concrete crisis on “cutting corners” and “sticking plaster politics” as he grilled the prime minister in PMQs today.

The Labour leader: “It’s the sort thing you expect from cowboy builders saying everyone else is wrong, everyone is to blame, protesting that they’re doing an effing good job even if the ceiling falls in – except in this case the cowboys are running this country.”

He added: “Isn’t he ashamed that after 13 years children are cowering under steel supports, stopping their classroom roof falling in.”

Rishi Sunak said he was not sorry for the decision to close around 100 of the 156 schools with Raac, saying he would “make no apology for acting decisively in the light of new information”.

It comes as the Department for Education has published a full list of the schools affected with Raac in England.

Are you a parent whose child has been affected by RAAC closures? E-mail alexander.butler@independent.co.uk

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Grant Shapps defends government’s messaging on concrete crisis

Grant Shapps defended the government messaging on the concrete crisis in schools, as ministers continue to insist that only a minority of buildings have been affected by reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac).

The defence secretary told Times Radio: “As a dad I would say the most important thing is that kids should be safe in school, that teachers should be safe in school.

“And if the accusation is ‘haven’t you overreacted by the beginning of term’, when new evidence has come about, jumping on this and making sure that we don’t allow an unsafe situation, which is now where that’s apparent, continue in a small number of schools then sure, absolutely we have definitely acted at the higher end of that.

“But I’d rather do that than have a problem in schools.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain6 September 2023 07:25
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Sunak to face grilling in PMQs over crumbling concrete in schools

Rishi Sunak will face Sir Keir Starmer at Prime Minister’s Questions for the first time in seven weeks as he comes under pressure to declare what he knew about the crumbling concrete crisis in schools.

The Conservative Party leader has become embroiled in the row after one of his ministers suggested Mr Sunak approved for 50 schools to be rebuilt a year when he was chancellor, rejecting an application for 200 to be given the same treatment.

Concerns over reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) have caused more than 100 schools in England to partially or fully shut.

Mr Sunak is likely to be grilled by the Labour leader on the funding made available to tackle faulty classroom concrete when the two face off on Wednesday for the first time since Parliament returned from its summer break.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain6 September 2023 07:28
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Labour to use parliamentary power to find out what PM knew about concrete crisis

Labour has already signalled it will look to use an arcane parliamentary mechanism to discover what Rishi Sunak knew about the crisis during his tenure in the Treasury.

Mr Sunak has faced accusations he slashed the school rebuilding programme in half when he was chancellor, providing funding for 100 crumbling schools to be replaced annually when, according to former Department for Education (DfE) permanent secretary Jonathan Slater, 400 needed revamps.

The prime minister has rejected the attack on his Treasury record.

Rishi Sunak is likely to face questions about the schools concrete crisis at PMQs

Maryam Zakir-Hussain6 September 2023 07:31
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Shapps continues to defend Tory policy over building work for schools

Grant Shapps also defended the Conservative-led coalition government’s decision to scrap the Building Schools for the Future programme.

“We didn’t think it was the right programme to take forward but many of those schools have had other remedial work or building work done in the meantime,” the defence secretary told Times Radio this morning.

“So I don’t think just sticking to what happened to be a previous policy is the answer to what would have still been a problem today.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain6 September 2023 07:49
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13 schools with crumbling concrete RAAC had repair work scrapped by Tories

At least 13 of the schools found to have crumbling concrete had funding to rebuild pulled by the Conservative government back in 2010, it has emerged.

Rishi Sunak is under huge pressure to declare what he knew about the crisis in schools when he faces Sir Keir Starmer at PMQs for the first time in seven weeks.

Concerns over reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) – a weak material which has been compared to an “Aero bar” – have caused more than 100 schools in England to partially or fully shut.

The Association of School and College Leaders said underinvestment in repairs amounted to a “national scandal”, while the National Education Union described it as “calculated neglect”.

13 schools with crumbling concrete Raac had repair work scrapped by Tories

Government accused of ‘calculated neglect’ as impact of 2010 cuts revealed

Maryam Zakir-Hussain6 September 2023 08:02
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No need to shut MoD buildings, says Shapps

New defence secretary Grant Shapps said officials were still “having a look at the estate” of Ministry of Defence (MoD) buildings for Raac problems.

He told Sky News: “It doesn’t look to us that the accommodation was built in that way and certainly when it comes to service family accommodation, it’s highly unlikely any of that has been affected, which is obviously important.

“And then we’re looking at the rest of the estate but it looks like the kind of thing that we’ll be dealing with in the normal course of business rather than needing to close anything down.”

Mr Shapps also defended the Tory-led coalition government’s decision to scrap Labour’s Building Schools for the Future programme – pointing out other funding puts have replaced the scheme.

“Many of those schools have had other remedial work or building work done in the meantime,” he told Times Radio.

Maryam Zakir-Hussain6 September 2023 08:27
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‘Nation’s parents will think government doesn’t care'

The concrete crisis in schools “reinforces” for parents that the government does not care about education, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has said.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Geoff Barton said: “I think the nation’s parents will think this just reinforces a sense that we have got a government that frankly doesn’t care, and hasn’t cared about education for many years.

“I actually remember visiting a school in a pretty deprived part of Suffolk, which was on the Building Schools for the Future list on the day that Michael Gove gleefully announced that the programme was being pulled.

“There were all kinds of flaws with that programme: it was expensive and it was overambitious, but it was saying something important, that the nation’s schools needed to be refurbished.

“What we have got today, therefore, is some of those schools’ headteachers scrambling around trying to identify bits of concrete which might look like Aero bars when they should be focusing on children learning and developing.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain6 September 2023 08:37
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School rebuilding will take 440 years under Tories, says furious union leader

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), attacked the Tories “gleeful” decision to pull Labour’s schools rebuilding programme in 2010.

At least 13 of the schools found to have crumbling concrete had funding to rebuild pulled when the Tories ditched the Building Schools for the Future (BSF).

Mr Barton said it shows the government “hasn’t cared about education for many years”.

The union boss told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he had visited a school in Suffolk on the BSF list for planned rebuilding on the day Michael Gove “gleefully” announced that the programme was getting pulled.

Mr Barton said the scrapping of the “important” works programme meant “we’ve got head teachers scrambling around trying to identify bits of concrete that might look like Aero bars when they should be focusing on children’s learning”.

The union leader mocked Mr Sunak’s “proud boast” that he would rebuild 50 schools a year – saying the programme would have to started in the 16th century to have been completed.

“At the rate of rebuilding England’s 22,000 schools at 50 a year, those built in 1583, just before the Spanish Armada, would just about be coming up for a refit.

“Is the government’s view that rebuilding schools over the next 440 years going to be – to quote Gillian Keegan – an effing good job?”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain6 September 2023 09:02
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Headteachers angrily accuse Sunak of ‘dumping’ them in crumbling concrete fiasco

Headteachers have accused Rishi Sunak’s government of “dumping” the crumbling concrete crisis on them – attacking the Tories for “gleefully” pulling the last Labour government’s rebuilding scheme.

At least 13 of the schools found to have crumbling concrete had funding to rebuild scrapped by the Conservative government back in 2010, it has emerged.

Geoff Barton, head of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said it would take 440 years to fix under Mr Sunak’s plan to rebuild 50 schools a year – noting that it would have been complete by now if started in the time of the Spanish Armada.

Headteachers angrily accuse Sunak of ‘dumping’ them in crumbling concrete fiasco

They claim Michael Gove ‘gleefully’ scrapped plans to rebuild schools – and say Sunak’s plan to fix problem would take 440 years

Maryam Zakir-Hussain6 September 2023 09:15
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Starmer set to grill Sunak in PMQs today

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that he would be grilling Rishi Sunak on the concrete crisis at Prime Minister’s Questions later, adding that prime minister had questions to answer about his time at the Treasury.

He told BBC Breakfast: “He took a decision in 2021. I think the least that we’re entitled to is to know what risks were pointed out to him in 2021 when the Prime Minister took those decisions, and an answer from him as to why he didn’t allow that funding to go forward.

He said that families and school teachers also wanted ministers to publish the list of schools with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) issues.

“Why haven’t you - and you must - publish the list of schools affected? Because we don’t even know the full extent of this.”

Maryam Zakir-Hussain6 September 2023 09:54

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