It is back to school day across the country — or it ought to be. Instead, pupils at 104 schools and colleges, eight of them in London, face serious disruption after full and partial closures of the buildings they use over fears about a catastrophic collapse of the concrete used in construction. At any time this would be disastrous, but at the start of the academic term and after years of severe Covid disruption it is unacceptable.
Gillian Keegan, the sixth education secretary in the last two years, this morning revealed that 1,500 schools have yet to return surveys on the presence of the dangerous concrete — known as reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). Clearly ministers do not yet know the scale of the problem.
Now Rishi Sunak himself is under the spotlight. As chancellor, Mr Sunak cut money earmarked for school rebuilding. A former civil servant at the Department for Education claimed today officials had warned Mr Sunak that the buildings posed “a critical risk to life”. And although Ms Keegan said her department would fund repairs, some schools have had to spend their own money to fix the problem.
This is not good enough and the Government has, after serial failures on education, long since exhausted any sympathy it might hope for. Students must be able to focus on their studies, not worry about the roof above their head collapsing. The Government must do everything to make that the case.
Yes to Martha’s rule
The anguish for any parent who loses a child is profound. What the parents of Martha Mills, who died two years ago, went through is particularly harrowing. They watched their daughter, who had suffered an internal injury while bike riding, deteriorate before their eyes in King’s College Hospital. Although they questioned doctors, Martha died after failures to treat the sepsis that developed as a result of her injury.
This morning her parents are calling for a new rule that would allow patients the right to an urgent second opinion if they feel doctors are not taking their concerns seriously. The Standard backs their call.
A unique pub quiz
The pub quiz is not an occasion traditionally associated with glamour. Except, that is, at the Barley Mow, where celebrities such as Dame Judi Dench and Dominic West have been asking quizzers a round of questions. The Barley Mow is, of course, in Marylebone — where else?