Classrooms shut as concrete crisis hits another Southend school

Another Southend school has been hit by the crumbling concrete crisis affecting schools across the country.

On Tuesday, Shoeburyness High School informed parents it had discovered it has classrooms built with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

Ben Stickley, chief executive of the Southend East Community Trust, which runs the school, said: “We have four rooms that are affected at the school. Three technology classrooms and a technology technician’s room. As soon the DfE guidance changed on August 1 they were immediately put out of use before the children came back.

“We’ve had a structural engineer visit us today and we are now looking at remedial works so that we can reopen those rooms in the near future. We’ve re-timetabled lessons that were in those rooms so the children’s education hasn’t been impacted at the moment which is very lucky.”

Mr Stickley added: “What we have had to do is restrict the curriculum because those are our only hard technology teaching rooms for things like woodwork and metalwork but we hope that is for a relatively short period whilst we put the mitigation in.”

Helen Boyd, councillor responsible for children’s services, education and learning, said: “I understand there is a minimum of disruption to lessons. The school has worked hard to isolate any affected areas. I think everyone is rallying round and it’s certainly not throughout the school.

“We are in touch with the school and I’m confident they can work and I’m sure they are working with the parents.”

In a letter to parents on Tuesday, headteacher Teri-Leigh Jones said: “We are working closely with the DfE on interim measures and next steps. As I have any updates on a timeframe I will keep you informed.

“I want to offer my reassurance to you that there is absolutely no risk to students, or indeed anyone a Shoeburyness High School.

“No other RAAC is present in the school, and the classrooms identified will remain securely closed off until the necessary works have been completed.”

Building Schools for the Future was a Government investment programme in secondary school buildings in England in the 2000s. It was cancelled in 2010

Built in the mid-1970s, Shoeburyness High School, Mr Stickley confirmed, was one of the schools earmarked for the building schools for the future list but had funding withdrawn just before it was about to go into the design phase.

Had that gone ahead RAAC would not have been present at all because the school would have been rebuilt.

The Kingsdown special needs school in Southend has also been confirmed to have RAAC along with Fitzwimarc School in Rayleigh and Hockley Primary School.

Christine Sexton

Local Democracy Reporter