Health and safety officer inspection

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC)

A summary of what we know so far on RAAC and what you should check in respect of your own school.

What is Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete RAAC?

A type of bubbly, porous concrete, weaker than traditional concrete and prone to sudden collapse.  It was widely used in schools and other public buildings from the 1950s to the mid 1990s.

Why has it suddenly become a problem?

Because the Government has ignored this ticking time bomb for far too long, it has known about the RAAC risk of collapse since at least 2018 when a roof collapsed at a Kent primary school.  And in any case, RAAC was known to have a life span of only 30 years so even RAAC used in the early 1990s is now time expired.  

As far as we know, the situation which triggered the sudden announcement about school closures on 31 August was linked to a beam collapse, without any prior signs of deterioration.

How can I find out if my school is affected?

An updated list of 234 schools and colleges with confirmed cases of RAAC was published in February 2024.

What is NEU advice where RAAC is confirmed?

If RAAC is already confirmed in your school, this is the DfE guidance that should be followed. Schools have been told by DfE to vacate and restrict access to the spaces with RAAC and ensure that they are out of use.  If this hasn’t happened, seek urgent support from your branch.

If your school is partly or fully closed because RAAC is confirmed, ask where the RAAC is, and ask for the risk assessment covering working arrangements for the rest of the building and for any other temporary premises being brought into use.

DfE guidance on installing temporary buildings on school sites affected by RAAC is available here.

Ask if your school also contains asbestos.  If it does contain asbestos (and it is likely that any building containing RAAC will also contain asbestos because both materials were being used in school construction at the same time) then ask how this will be managed when remedial work is undertaken.  If you are worried, contact the health and safety officer/secretary from your branch.

What is the DfE saying now?

The Department for Education is now saying that its RAAC identification programme is complete, and the questionnaire has closed. All responsible bodies for schools and colleges with blocks built in the target era have submitted responses to the questionnaire. Any school or college that advised the DfE that they suspected they might have RAAC has had a survey to confirm if RAAC is present.  Other than the 234 education settings on the list, the surveys found no evidence of RAAC. A small number of schools and colleges are carrying out additional checks for further assurance in some spaces. The DfE is working with responsible bodies to support them to complete these additional checks as quickly as possible.

What will the NEU do?

The union intends to survey the approximately 6,000 NEU members who are working in schools with confirmed RAAC. We expect this survey to reveal much more than the picture presented by the DfE, not just in terms of decaying buildings per se, but also in terms of the human cost for staff unable to teach in specialist areas and students whose exam courses have been adversely affected by the crisis.

School Building Safety Petition

Our schools are crumbling. To help press the case for investment, the union has launched a petition calling for the spending increase and greater transparency in how the Government deals with the problem of crumbling schools.

Sign our petition

Underfunding of schools: Call for evidence

The situation with RAAC is a national scandal.

But we know this is just the tip of the iceberg. Heads, teachers and support staff are struggling every day with inadequate school buildings and lack of resources. Our students are losing out.

So, the National Education Union is opening a call for evidence to help us pressure the Government over the urgent need for extra funding for schools – and we need your help.

Click here to give us your evidence

We need you to submit your examples – using photos, video, or just text – of any problems you’ve encountered with the state of your school (structural problems such as leaking roofs or collapsing ceilings, classrooms overcrowded, buildings too hot or too cold, insufficient learning resources such as sports, science or cooking spaces/equipment etc). 

We will anonymise all submissions unless you tell us you are happy to go public. We will use the evidence on social media, in communications with members and to lobby politicians to pledge the additional funds our schools desperately need.

What about Ofsted?

This term RAAC-affected schools “will be eligible for inspection”, according to Ofsted. However, Ofsted has said that being on the RAAC list “will be sufficient grounds to defer the inspection”, should the school wish to.

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, Ofsted will “carefully consider any requests for a deferral of an inspection”.

What is NEU doing at national level?

  1. We have written a joint letter to the Secretary of State with five other sister education unions urging Government to publish much more comprehensive data on schools affected by RAAC. The letter seeks firm commitments to properly fund all mitigation costs, boost investment to restore our crumbling school estate and set a clear deadline for when all schools will be cleared of RAAC. You can read the joint letter and our press statement here.
  2. We will continue to urge the Government, and lobbying opposition parties, to commit to reverse the swingeing cuts to capital spending which have left schools in such a dire state of repair. As of 2021 schools in England faced a repair bill of an estimated £11.4bn, according to a DfE survey, the Condition of School Buildings Survey. By June 2023 the National Audit Office report Condition of School Buildings found that “following years of underinvestment, the estate’s overall condition is declining and around 700,000 pupils are learning in a school that the responsible body or DfE believes needs major rebuilding or refurbishment.”  RAAC isn’t the only problem.  Many buildings containing RAAC will also contain asbestos, making it more difficult to safely remove RAAC and meaning that the consequences of a collapse are even more serious.
  3. In the light of the Education Secretary’s failure to provide a substantive response to our joint letter, the NEU has now written, jointly with other unions and the National Governance Association, to the Prime Minister to demand a satisfactory answer including an increase in the schools capital funding budget up to £7bn. This is the level calculated by the Office of Government Property required to maintain the school estate in line with best practice each year.  The Government is currently spending just over a third of this amount. 

The NEU has developed a tool for health and safety reps to check the safety of their school buildings to highlight to management the areas of the school which pose a safety risk so they can be prioritised for remediation.

School building safety checklist for reps

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