Pupils forced to take ‘lessons in portacabins’ as dangerous buildings shut

Education minister Gillian Keegan said a “stock of portacabins” had been made ready to potentially replace dangerous crumbling concrete classrooms for children.

The under-pressure minister told Kay Burley on Sky News this morning: “We have eight structural surveying firms, who go in and do the surveys.

“We have three portacabin providers, so we’ve laid up a stock of portacabins, so that people can be prepared quickly to do that if they need temporary accommodation.

“We’ve also looked at the propping company, so we have a propping company that’s nationwide, the Department of Education will pay for all of that.”

Kay Burley challenged the minister on how the repair work would be funded, and if it was coming out of existing school budgets. Ms Keegan said the Department for Education would fund all “mitigation works”.

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She continued, saying “most schools will not have to close” and that the “vast majority of children will be going back today”.

Concerns about Raac – a lightweight concrete used up until the mid-1990s – in public buildings were raised in 2018, prompting accusations that ministers have failed to act quick enough.

Experts have warned that the risks may extend beyond schools to hospitals, court buildings and prisons, where the material is present.

Ms Keegan conceded there will be some schools “with quite extensive Raac” and that they “may close so that we can put temporary accommodation in place”.

She said: “Many schools are either looking for alternative accommodation, if they are in a multi-academy trust, or within a local authority, or moving to another classroom if they’ve got spare classroom.

“If it’s across the whole school then that gets more difficult, so what we are doing right now is we have assigned a caseworker for each one of the schools, who are working with the school to figure out what the mitigation plans are. We want to minimise disruption to children’s education.”

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The Education Secretary told BBC Breakfast later that there were “104 (schools) that are not mitigated that are being mitigated right now”.

Their status changed to critical after an incident in August where a panel fell from a roof that had previously been assessed as non-critical, she said.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt moved to reassure parents the Government would “spend what it takes” to address the problem, but Treasury sources later said money for repairs would come from the Department for Education’s (DfE) existing capital budget.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said “ministers need to get a grip” and that the Department for Education was in “complete chaos”.

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