My Intervention in the Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete in Education Settings Ministerial Statement

John Redwood (Wokingham) (Con):

Will individual schools have direct access to the money and the temporary accommodation, if they need it? And will every local education authority make an urgent statement about their role in commissioning the schools in the first place and about maintenance, where they are responsible?

Gillian Keegan, Secretary of State for Education:

We have put a caseworker in place so that each school can work with that caseworker, as well as having access to the temporary accommodation and the company that can do the propping work, which we have already secured, or to additional surveying, if required. We are working closely with local authorities, but I urge the 5% of local authorities that have not responded to the questionnaire to respond—that is more important than ever.


  1. BW
    September 6, 2023

    Mr Sunak said that he cannot be held responsible for the concrete fiasco as it was done long before his time. What a shame we are unable to apply the same logic to slavery. Which was even longer before my time.

  2. formula57
    September 6, 2023

    So the schools will have direct access to the caseworker (who is?, with what powers?, what funding?) and the local authorities responsible for maintenance will not be required to explain themselves. There is progress.

    (The Minister omitted the now traditional words telling you that you had asked a good question but at least she did not swear.)

    I hope critics appreciate that as during Covid perceived educational outcomes need not be impaired as top grade certificates can be issued to all regardless.

  3. Bloke
    September 6, 2023

    One caseworker, or one per school?
    ‘We have already secured’ applies to what? Not the buildings. A list of companies that perform services was secured in the Yellow Pages in the 1970s.
    The reply is as sloppy as both the original cement mix and the minister’s attitude.

    1. Mickey Taking
      September 6, 2023

      Not even hot air applies?

  4. Everhopeful
    September 6, 2023

    How my soul trembles at the word “caseworker”.
    A mythical beast, who, like “one of the team” is never available.

    1. a-tracy
      September 6, 2023

      I wonder if the caseworker is a building inspector or surveyor. Or just a pen pusher.

    2. Mickey Taking
      September 6, 2023

      according to ‘a spokesperson’.

  5. Everhopeful
    September 6, 2023

    Compare and contrast the two statements.
    The first immediately unrolls the bandages and brews sweet tea while setting in motion an inquiry as to cause and responsibility.
    The second statement kind of waffles and (I think) tries a bit of feeble blame-shifting.
    Question for the class: which statement is more suited to an emergency?

    1. Bloke
      September 7, 2023

      If schools are built with Aero bars instead of hard stuff pupils are at risk like Hansel & Gretel.

  6. Roy Grainger
    September 6, 2023

    This situation is proof that while national politicians are mostly ineffectual, local politicians are even worse. Why did local authority LEAs build schools with materials which they knew would only last 30 years ? As a follow-on, why do national politicians devolve powers to local politicians when they will be blamed anyway when things go wrong ? Might as well abolish LEAs in favour of free schools with central control (so the exact opposite of Labour policy).

    1. iain gill
      September 6, 2023

      head teachers should be in control, and direct relationship with parents in school admissions decisions, instead of rationing decisions being done by education authorities.
      most of the money education authorities spend on their own work is simple overhead that could be cut from the system, ideally give the money directly to parents to give to any school of their choice.

  7. Everhopeful
    September 6, 2023

    So is the problem the long “planks” of RAAC used for roofing rather than the grey breeze blocks that are/were used for walls?
    Looking at a pic of one, the inner steel reinforcement doesn’t even extend the full length of the “beam”.
    AND they look very much like our fence posts which crumble and collapse on a regular basis.
    And just think of all the beautiful, sound Victorian schools torn down or turned into “kermoonity” centres just because of some ludicrous idea about windows being too high. Or more likely because a mate of a councillor wanted to make money!

    1. Berkshire Alan
      September 6, 2023

      Ever hopeful
      Yes similar type of material to insulation blocks used in modern walls, but walls need compressive strength to take vertical loading which is why blocks are acceptable in such circumstances, they would not be suitable for floors and roofs unless supported on structural concrete beams (which also need a support of some sort, as they have little shear or flex strength across their width when laid flat.
      It’s all about using the correct materials for the correct situation min the correct manner, as it always is.

      1. Iain gill
        September 6, 2023

        Blocks in walls don’t have steel reinforcement. Ordinary concrete with steel reinforcement when the steel rusts and fails it is visible. Concrete with air bubbles and steel reinforcement shows no external signs when the steel rusts and fails, as the rust expands into the bubbles which “give”. Hence why it can fail with no warning.
        We should have a big programme to remove asbestos too, it’s far too dangerous although picking it’s victims one by one, and not all together like a roof collapse would.

    2. Iain gill
      September 6, 2023

      We should have “tried and tested” proven designs for school buildings, and build them all the same. We should not be having each and every one designed differently. And use traditional low risk approaches. You can change the colour of the bricks or tiles to make them look different cosmetically, but keep to a proven shopping list of designs. Same goes for houses, hospitals etc. Far too much effort is wasted making each design unique.

  8. Everhopeful
    September 6, 2023

    Will the govt. take any lessons from this schools-of-cards debacle?
    Like having a good hard think about making us totally reliant on technology that just does not work well enough?

  9. Dave Andrews
    September 6, 2023

    Round our way they have been pulling down schools.
    I would like to know what proportion of schools RAAC isn’t a problem because the intention was that it should be a temporary structure, rather like a portacabin.
    The problem is where buildings are attempted to be used beyond their natural lifespan.

    1. a-tracy
      September 6, 2023

      I wonder if this was from around 1948 when a new trial school was introduced, ‘a secondary modern’. Modern schools for ‘progressive ideas’ I went to one in the late 70s and spent a good deal of my schooling in mobile classrooms around the core school, which is still standing today but no longer used as a school, the mobile classrooms are long gone.

      In 1944, Rab Butler introduced the Education Act 1944, which raised the school leaving age to 15. It was enforced from 1947, coincidentally when this building material seemed to have been given the all-clear by building regulations to be used – BY WHO? Was it documented they were temporary core buildings as well as the temporary classrooms in portacabins and huts? Are these current problems these huts and portacabins or main buildings? I have a feeling the main buildings weren’t built as ‘temporary’; the huts and mobile classrooms, yes, I think they were temporary but stayed for decades; the core buildings, no, I can’t believe core school buildings were built with a 30-year expiry date on them.

      In September 1972, the leaving age was raised to 16.

      Wiki says ‘ROSLA buildings
      For secondary schools without a Middle School, accommodating the new 5th-year students was going to be a struggle. A popular solution was to provide those schools with a pre-fabricated building (often referred to as ROSLA buildings or ROSLA blocks),[11] providing them with the resources to cope with the new generation of 5th-year students. This solution proved popular, not only due to the low cost involved for materials and construction but also the speed at which these buildings could be erected. Many were supplied by F. Pratten and Co Ltd.

      The ROSLA buildings were delivered in self-assembly packs and then assembled, often within days, regardless of weather conditions. They were not intended to stand long-term, though some have stood much longer than was intended.[11] Many ROSLA buildings shared similar exterior attributes, the only difference being the separation of rooms within the building. The room separation within the building was decided upon by senior school management; hence many walls are false from being added after construction. The majority of schools have replaced their ROSLA building(s), but numerous schools are still actively using them.

    2. Mickey Taking
      September 6, 2023

      It is a good job the Romans didn’t look for cheaper build and cost saving.

  10. Berkshire Alan
    September 6, 2023

    Does the Government actually have a plan/proposal yet, or is it still waiting for further information on the possible true scale of what could be unfolding.

    1. Everhopeful
      September 6, 2023

      Well…could it be that if whatt unfolds is truly/allegedly terrible the cunning plan will be….
      ONLINE “learning”.
      Or maybe Nissan huts?

  11. Javelin
    September 6, 2023

    The Guardian recently ran an article composing the foreign aid was being spent on building private schools in Nigeria and Pakistan.

    What on earth is this Government doing.

    My take on all of this is that mass migration has brought in a very socially and educationally diverse number of people.

    However a person in the lower quartile impacts society with a much greater cost than the upper quartile. This has led to a break down in society.

    I also understand that the immigration filter is broken and is run by people who do not apply a legal filter to the new immigrants. This has led to the break down in society.

    This has happened under the Conservative Government and would be worse under a Labour Government.

    The solution will be a European wide right wing Government that will reverse this trend because democracy has a very strong sense of survival. We are about to rapidly enter into a new age.

  12. Lynn Atkinson
    September 6, 2023

    Sir John, off topic but I have a very serious question about which I am greatly confused.
    We are apparently compelled to give asylum to people from across the world who reach these shores who are fleeing violence.
    Yet European countries are extraditing Ukrainians who fled their own country and the war in which they fear being forcibly conscripted, and death.
    How can these two contradictory policies be enacted simultaneously?

  13. glen cullen
    September 6, 2023

    Smoke & mirrors, this is a distraction, not one single student was or has or will be injuried by these repairs
    But yesterday the media wasn’t talking about immigration or the energy bill

    This party of EU and Net-Zero hasn’t changed a single policy

    1. Iain gill
      September 6, 2023

      Only because the spectacular school roof collapse which did happen happened on a weekend when there were no children there. It is that event which caused the experts to change their advice after much investigation and soul searching.

  14. MFD
    September 6, 2023

    Sir John , I had a sixty year career in building maintenance are have seen this type of problem before, It is a result of neglect and can be rectified, so what is the panic over? Are the nudge unit trying to frighten the population again?
    Get surveys and a program of work, finance the whole job – job done!
    Remember the saying “ keep calm and carry on!” , panic just stalls progress.

    1. MFD
      September 6, 2023

      Sorry, my old brain again! I meant to add, charity begins at home, so use the so-called aid money that is wasted every year!

    2. Lifelogic
      September 6, 2023

      Indeed but as the pupils are return to school Labour are making political gains by pushing fear and envy as usual. Labour just as responsible as the dire Tories.

    3. Iain gill
      September 6, 2023

      No a school roof collapse in Gravesend happened in about 2018, and since then a lot of experts have been considering the implications. It’s the conclusions of those considerations that has changed the professional advice. Any survey is going to struggle to say such a school is safe because the failure of the steel reinforcement is not visible from outside the structural element.
      It’s going to be a case of it all having to be replaced.

  15. Hope
    September 6, 2023

    Your party heralded massive changes to planning legislation in 2010, including changing funding to local authorities to make it happen. What about public buildings?

    A bit like Javid as HS heralding at Tory conference that he closed the last detention for boat people! Where did your party think they would be housed? What costing took place to the taxpayer? What would stop them from disappearing while applications failed? How would these criminals be deported? Was our national security even considered!

    Is your party/Govt. Capable of joined up thinking?

  16. Lifelogic
    September 6, 2023

    So Kwasi Kwarteng says sorry for the economic damage during his brief period as Chancellor in an interview with Piers Morgan last night. But the blame clearly lies almost entirely with Sunak’s endless waste, QE, the pointless lockdowns and the vast government waste when he was Chancellor and the QE incompetent BofE. Not really with 40 days of Truss and Kwarteng who were broadly on the right lines.

    They just should have announced large government saving and cut backs at the same time as the tax cuts.

    1. Lifelogic
      September 6, 2023

      Dan Wooton had a good take on in GBNews last news on the brief Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwateng era. They were clearly never going to be allowed to succeed by the Sunak supporters. 47% of GDP spent (largely wasted) by government is clearly killing the economy. But with daft OTT endless regulations, vast levels red tape, rigged markets in healthcare, education, housing, transports, energy, banking, housing, the net zero religion, open door migration plus the Sunak’s vast inflation tax it is, in effect, far worse than just this 47%. Plus many more people are working unpaid for the government. Many others not working so living off the backs of those that do. A doom loop as more and more leave or decide to life of the backs others.

    2. rose
      September 6, 2023

      Morgan really did live up to his nickname. An atrocious performance, and what a bully. Mr Kwarteng stuck to his guns and said he did not apologise for the strategy, but he was too meek and mild under the ignorant onslaught. A great pity he was not able to explain to the viewers, if not to the inadequate interviewer, what had happened.

      He must have decided a year ago he wasn’t going to explain.

  17. iain gill
    September 6, 2023

    Should have been worked on during the lockdowns. As we should have resurfaced our airport runways. Surely this was obvious at the time?

    1. Lifelogic
      September 6, 2023

      Indeed. Should have build new runways at Gatwick and Heathrow and connected them with a high speed train link to give a five runway hub airport. Far more sensible than the moronic billions wasted on the sick joke HS2.

      1. iain gill
        September 6, 2023

        we need some “hoover dam” style projects that are genuinely useful to the country, to stimulate the economy, generate jobs etc. new reservoirs would be good. new hospitals (with private rooms for patients like the rest of the developed world), resurface runways, replacement schools (built to old fashioned brick and tile construction methods), new power transmission capacity, and so on.

  18. a-tracy
    September 6, 2023

    This new Labour attack line about champagne tax relief today is a good one; they’re implying Rishi knew all about the concrete problem in schools when he was chancellor for 2.5 years from Feb 2020 (just before Covid hit), after Gove stopped the rebuilding of schools from 2009 that Labour had ‘budgeted’ for from the empty draw and stopped spending money on schools (false but the papers are printing it). Instead, Rishi gave a tax concession on sparkling wine and Champers that will cost £150m; the roofs are estimated by Rapleys in the Guardian to cost £140m to repair.

    ‘The new system aims to encourage drinkers to cut back by taxing all alcohol based on its strength’, but people like alcohol change said the plan was terrible for pubs, pubs didn’t want it (and gave Rishi lousy press at the time). They also said it won’t make any difference to the price to the punter. The whole thing looks like a fubar (and that’s me being polite).
    Heckled by angry publicans

  19. forthurst
    September 6, 2023

    The blame game should not involve LEAs or any authority for commissioning buildings made of a widely used building material, both here and on the continent but on the response of the government to
    the issue of the sudden failure of the material as a consequence of the corrosion of the steel element which came to light in 90s. The idea that the material had a design life of 30 years is clearly complete nonsense. Far more likely is the unawareness of its far greater propensity to corrosion over normal reinforced concrete because of the aeration process which is far more likely to facilitate the entry of water vapour.

    1. Lifelogic
      September 6, 2023

      Indeed but £35k plus EV cars are lucky to last much more that 8 years before the battery need changing which is expensive and often simply not worth doing. So circa £60k for 8 years in finance costs and depreciation before you even use it. Perhaps £1.50+ per mile for a typical user keep your old small ICU car and it is more like 30p a mile.

      1. Lifelogic
        September 6, 2023

        More CO2 from the EV too if that (quite wrongly) bothers you. Plus far less tax raised from the EV too.

    2. Roy Grainger
      September 6, 2023

      So no blame should attach to the people (LEA) who commissioned and ran and maintained the buildings ? So if my shed roof leaks the government are to blame. Useful to know.

      1. forthurst
        September 6, 2023

        The government are responsible for building regulations; another factoid for you to know.

  20. Rod Evans
    September 6, 2023

    I endeavour to make comments on this blog but the system of filtering/moderation/algorithm in play seems to make the effort pointless. You never know if your comment will see the light of publication or not. Am I the only one that experiences this hit and miss comment situation?

    1. Rod Evans
      September 6, 2023

      Obviously today is a let’s publish comment day.
      Hey ho.
      On the weak concrete question. If you choose to build using lower performance materials, then expect lower performance results.
      Th use of lightweight building materials is not a bad thing per se. So long as the customer is made aware of the limitations.

    2. Derek
      September 6, 2023

      Me too and I expect many others. Our biggest problem is the “robot” who controls this does not provide a list of “Do’s and Don’ts”.
      Such a list would relieve the obvious frustration that arises when a lengthy comment is summarily rejected.

    3. iain gill
      September 6, 2023

      since John seems to be doing all the moderation himself, and he clearly is a busy MP, this is inevitable.

      its better than the moderation over at Conservative Home which removed thousands and thousands of comments from pro Brexit people in the long period before the referendum. so much so that they became delusional and actually thought their version of reality was correct, which it clearly was not, as proven by the actual result.

    4. Mike Wilson
      September 6, 2023

      Am I the only one that experiences this hit and miss comment situation?

      You are not the only one. I regularly post and, as the page reappears, my comment does not. No ‘Your comment is awaiting moderation’. Nothing. It simply vanishes. This site is very unreliable. It often fails to store your name etc. for reuse.

  21. Derek
    September 6, 2023

    Oh ohhhh, this is going to end badly for the tax payers. Again!
    More cash is required. Government under Sunak seems to be able to conjure it up from thin air but cannot when under Liz Truss, it so appears.
    So what is our total public sector debt now? £2,537 Billion, equivalent to 100% GDP as of March 2023.
    Interest payments are £111 Billion per year which is almost the budgets for Defence and Education combined and represents 9.6% of all Government spending which equates to £38,000 per person. Are our debt repayments per capita now the highest in the world? It’s way higher than the average wage so how much more are we going to borrow before we “run out of other peoples money”? And our lenders get very nervous over our currency!
    This is getting more and more dangerously ridiculous with each week but to stop the rot, is simple. Shut down HS2 and shelve net zero ambitions until the RoTW reduces to our own levels. But will any of our representatives in Parliament do it?
    “The only thing for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”. A valid statement here but do we have enough “good” men in the HoC and HoL to accomplish it? Our Nation is at stake!

    1. iain gill
      September 6, 2023

      national debt is officially about 2.9 trillion, plus a lot of stuff that is not counted which the state is 100% liable for, like pensions, and state guarantees of companies like BT, and the banks, infrastructure which has been bought on PFI where we are still basically liable for the capital costs they are just spread over many years, etc.

      1. Derek
        September 7, 2023

        Agreed and I have just read the total public sector pension liability is £5 Trillion. £1.2T for public service pensions and £3.8T for State pensions ( research). I presume those figures are based on the UK population in 2023 so the sky becomes the limit in the future with the mass immigration programme and parents being paid to breed. Compared to our GDP the maths certainly do not add up here either. Is there anyone within the Treasury who can see the problem?

  22. rose
    September 6, 2023

    While Blair’s Supreme Court is merrily bankrupting the country by refusing to get on with judging what is none of its business, we are reminded it also bankrupted Birmingham with one of its retrospective specials. You would think a body as PC as that would have an impact assessment done before it gives its opinion.

    1. ukretired123
      September 6, 2023

      To my utter amazement and disbelief I briefly saw Ed Balls co-hosting ITV breakfast this morning and thought how ironic if he had to comment on the Labour run Birmingham Council going bust as the Labour Party itself has been technically bankrupt many times before and remember when they ran the government until “No money left” to the Conservatives?

  23. Peter D Gardner
    September 6, 2023

    This sounds eminently sensible. It is important not to respond to the hysterical anti-lockdown brigade who imagine a permanent removal of all basic freedoms in every government intervention.

  24. hefner
    September 6, 2023

    O/T but really interesting specially in view of those who want a bit less negativity:
    ‘The state we’re in’, September 2023,, 35 pp.

    And if one wants positivity read ‘the one and only’ Robert Kimbell and drink the Kool Aid.

    1. Margaretbj.
      September 7, 2023

      The KOOL AID Saga revealed the ignorance of the USA peoples who couldn’t understand that in medical use there are many disinfectants in every day use .The sway of the ignorant brought about what we fear in democracy.The mass opinion of the uniformed.Some here actually argued against many disinfection procedures Which I have performed over 60 years Inthe NHS because they read it!

  25. Javelin
    September 6, 2023

    Hmmm. should the German’s not pay for this.

    The reason we used cheaper concrete was we were bankrupt after the war.

  26. Mike Wilson
    September 6, 2023

    They have ‘a company to do the propping work’. Not, by any remote chance, a friend of a friend.

    1. Mickey Taking
      September 7, 2023

      Lots of new ‘propping’ companies seizing the moment?

  27. Steve
    September 6, 2023

    It’s good news that UK is rejoining the EU’s Horizin Science Research programme – at last a bit of sanity showing through that may be able to help with problems like the RAAC

  28. iain gill
    September 6, 2023

    report on what went wrong with air traffic control, well worth a read. being rather charitable to the management in my view.

  29. Sir Joe Soap
    September 6, 2023

    It would be interesting to know what has happened to all the private schools with Raac within them. Presumably quietly and efficiently sorted out, even if the school was transferred from state maintained to private post-Raac incorporation. There’s a moral in there.

  30. Mickey Taking
    September 6, 2023

    off topic.
    In February, Rishi Sunak signed a deal with the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen – the Windsor Framework. That paved the way for talks on Horizon, which look as though they’re finally reaching their culmination.
    It’s a further moment of reconciliation between the UK and the EU following the bitter disputes over Brexit that followed the 2016 Leave vote.
    reconciliation or waving a white flag?

  31. Lester_Cynic
    September 8, 2023

    Apparently the Parthenon was built out of concrete so shouldn’t we expect public buildings to last more than 30 years?


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