Schools in England with collapse-risk concrete should be exempt from Ofsted inspections until they are “fully operational”, a headteachers’ union has said.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has called on the Education Secretary to provide more support to the hundreds of schools with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) on site.
In a letter to Gillian Keegan, ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton said managing Raac is still creating “major issues” for schools – including lack of access to specialist equipment and limited or no catering facilities.
A total of 231 schools and colleges in England were confirmed as having Raac on their premises as of November 27 last year, according to the list published by the Department for Education (DfE).
Ofsted said it would avoid inspecting any school or college that was on the DfE’s list of education settings affected by Raac during the autumn term.
This term, a school or college that has confirmed Raac on site will be eligible for an inspection, but Ofsted said an affected setting can ask for an inspection to be deferred.
The open letter from Mr Barton to Ms Keegan said: “We ask that you instruct Ofsted to continue to avoid scheduling for inspection any school on the published Raac list until the school is fully operational, unless the headteacher has notified Ofsted that they are happy to undergo an inspection.”
The union is also calling for students to be given special consideration for coursework and non-exam assessment (NEA) in schools and colleges where specialist spaces – like art studios, science labs and technology workshops – had to be closed because of Raac.
Mr Barton said: “Students in Raac schools have suffered significant disruption to their learning, including periods of remote learning, and lack of access to classrooms and specialist equipment for several subject areas.”
His comments come after education experts at Durham University recently called for pupils at schools where teaching has been badly affected by Raac to have their GCSE and A-level results uplifted by up to 10%.
Last month, the ASCL called on Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to introduce in his spring Budget a new recovery funding stream – which could be used for catch-up provision – for all the schools affected by Raac.
The union warned in its submission to the Treasury that an “unacceptable” wait for mitigation works at Raac-affected schools meant parents were withdrawing their children and moving them to different schools, and applications for September 2024 for these affected schools were down.
We have today written to @GillianKeegan @educationgovuk calling for urgent action to provide better support for schools impacted by #RAAC – see our press release and letter here: https://t.co/LEAQlPFA9z pic.twitter.com/9o6c0YJAZH
— ASCL (@ASCL_UK) February 6, 2024
In his letter to Ms Keegan, Mr Barton said: “Schools affected by Raac are suffering financial detriment.
“Many are still waiting for full reimbursement from the Government of reasonable costs incurred in making their buildings safe in the short term, and ensuring educational provision is maintained as much as possible.”
A statement by Ofsted on Tuesday said: “This spring term, a school that has confirmed Raac in some of their buildings will be eligible for Ofsted inspection; however, this will be sufficient grounds to defer the inspection, should the school wish to.
“We know that the situation with Raac is still causing challenges for school staff, pupils and their parents and guardians.
“For schools that do not have confirmed Raac but may still be impacted by Raac – for example, where a school is hosting pupils from schools that have Raac – we will carefully consider any requests for a deferral of an inspection.
“If we have any concerns, we retain the right to inspect any setting, including those affected by Raac.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The safety of staff and pupils is paramount, and we have been working at pace with schools to identify Raac and support them to minimise disruption.
“We have committed to fund the removal of Raac from our schools either through grants, or through our School Rebuilding Programme and we will inform schools as soon as possible once our assessments have concluded.”