Redbridge schools open amid RAAC scare

Redbridge Council is “confident” that all school buildings in use in the borough are safe from collapsing concrete called reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

In a statement published on Sunday evening, council leader Jas Athwal said that all schools in Redbridge will open as expected this week.

However, it remains unclear whether the council has confirmed the existence of RAAC in any of its school buildings.

Cllr Athwal said the council is conducting an “immediate investigation” into all of its school sites to determine whether safety works will be needed.

He added: “Following discussions with school leaders, we remain confident that all school buildings in use are safe.

“Where there are concerns, those spaces will not be used until deemed safe and alternative provision has been organised by schools.”

The council did not respond when asked to clarify whether any council-owned school buildings have already been confirmed to contain RAAC.

One Redbridge school that appears to be affected by RAAC is the Palmer Catholic Academy, in Seven Kings.

In July, headteacher Paul Downey told parents that “extraordinary circumstances” required roofing works to be carried out during the summer months.

He said the works were a “necessity” that required the school to reopen on 5th September, a day later than planned.

The school has been contacted for comment.

Cllr Athwal said “government incompetence” meant schools are facing an “incredible challenge” to secure sites or organise alternative provisions at short notice.

He added: ““It is disgraceful that concerns over safety with RAAC have only come to light as schools prepare to return next week and that over the summer holidays, it appears no action was taken by the Department for Education to support school communities to address these issues.

“It is vital that the government immediately provide a comprehensive public register of the schools that will be impacted to reassure families and school communities.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We have been clear since Thursday about the number of schools immediately impacted by RAAC.

“52 of the 156 RAAC cases identified already have mitigations in place, and while some of the remaining projects will be more complex, many will range from just a single building on a wider estate, down to a single classroom.

“We are incredibly grateful to school and college leaders for their work with us at pace to make sure that where children are affected, disruption is kept to a minimum, and in the even rarer cases where remote learning is required, it is for a matter of days not weeks.”

Josh Mellor

Local Democracy Reporter