Kate Osborne MP for Jarrow:
For the Department of Education to give schools one working day notice that they cannot fully open from Monday is completely unacceptable.
This situation impacts a school in my constituency and I have been discussing with the head teacher and visited the premises in July.
I have been in discussion with the DFE and ministers and met them again last night and this morning.
The DFE has known about this problem for years, this isn’t new information. They were told RAAC was not safe in 2018, yet they only surveyed the schools to check the condition in May and June this year.
I understand the guidance has changed from closing areas where RAAC had been identified as critical to closing all areas where RAAC had been identified – however as critical RAAC was found in June and July in some of these schools, including the school in my constituency action could and should have been taken over August.
These survey results came in before the summer break, the Government and DFE could have taken remedial action over the summer instead of leaving it until the last minute.
It is yet another area that this Government is failing in, their managed decline of our education services, underfunding schools for years and allowing our kids to go into school buildings they knew were unsafe.
Yesterday some schools were told they might have to close in full and bus kids to another school or use portacabins.
As of yesterday afternoon the school in my constituency didn’t know if they could open on Monday or not – when I asked the DFE if they could confirm they said they didn’t know that specific information. However it seems from my call with the Minister this morning and emails from the DfE (1st September) the school will not open for staff on Monday or for students on Tuesday.
The Minister informed me today that all schools impacted now have a dedicated Caseworker and they will receive help from today, this is of course welcome but it really should have been in place across the summer.
Informing them today leaves less than one working day for the headteacher to make arrangements and inform staff and parents.
This is a complete shambles that will have a huge impact on my constituents and children’s education locally and across the many schools that are impacted nationally.
The Minister also made a commitment that they will fully fund and carry out initial and long term remedial action to make schools safe, but the schools would need to pay for transport, staffing and other immediate initial costs and apply for full reimbursement.
The Government must honour this commitment and ensure schools are not financially impacted and that our kids’ education is impacted as little as possible.
The Government and DFE have a huge number of questions to answer on their poor handling of this situation over this summer and over the last few years and on the negative impact this will inevitably have on children’s education. Exacerbating the impact of the pandemic which as we saw last week already has a greater impact on students in the North than in London.
I will be keeping a close eye on this and in regular communications with the school, as well as meeting the minister again next week.
Initial inspection of the school in May 2023
and then again in June 2023
Dfe visited the school on 14th July and told them to close one section of school.
Kate Osborne MP visited on 21st July 2023
DfE and Minister calls at the last minute on 31st August 2023 and 1st September 2023.