Essex County Council using own funds to deal with problem concrete in schools

Essex County Council is having to find another £187,000 of its own money to help deal with the problems surrounding crumbling concrete in schools.

More than 50 schools across Essex have been impacted by issues concerning the safety of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). It has resulted in some having to introduce temporary measures to continue teaching their pupils, including interim classrooms in church halls as well as some having to do remote-learning or a mixture.

The DfE has said that it will provide funding for essential immediate works and support the provision of temporary buildings for schools and colleges that are affected and work closely with responsible bodies to manage RAAC in the long term.

However, due to the scale of the problem, Essex County Council is having to pull experienced officers away from their day to day jobs to “develop and implement mitigation plans for the education of pupils in response to the problems associated with RAAC in Essex schools”.

Essex County Council has said £187,000 to backfill those jobs by employing temporary workers will have to come from its own funds. The measure may have to be extended.

The county council has said it has working “over a number of years” to understand the extent of RAAC across the maintained school estate. Essex County Council has so far identified 54 schools within Essex as having RAAC within Essex in all or, more commonly, some of their buildings.

Of the 54 schools, fifteen are local authority maintained schools for which Essex County Council is responsible with the remaining 39 being academies, for which the academy trust is the responsible body. Essex County Council are required to take immediate action for the maintained Schools, and we are also working to support academy trusts where this is needed.

Of the 15 schools, 14 are fully or partly open but work needs to be done to address RAAC in these schools. Essex County Council says it needs to “urgently make plans to educate pupils in the schools which are partially or fully open” run by a team of 11 people who are experts in education, project managers and business support staff.

Resource for this team will be found internally at Essex County Council but these will be existing staff and it will be necessary to backfill the substantive roles. The £187,000 from the Heath and Safety Reserve will fund the backfilling of the roles for six months.

A statement said as part of a cabinet decision said: “The £187,000 will be used to pay for temporary resources to backfill the posts by bringing in additional external resources either via fixed term contracts or agency staff to deal with the backlog of work that results from those individuals not undertaking their substantive roles.

“The position will be kept under review, and it may be necessary to take a decision for a further drawdown from reserves in due course.”

Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter