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Schools concrete crisis: 6 worrying developments in the past 24 hours

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 06: A general view of the Park View School which has various areas of the building affected by the RAAC concrete crisis on September 06, 2023 in London, England. Keir Starmer and Bridget Phillipson will visit the school after Mr Webster, the headteacher, and other staff members, have outlined the impact the Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) crisis has had on the school and its pupils. RAAC is a lightweight but less durable type of concrete that was extensively used in the latter half of the 20th century, and the buildings constructed with it are at significant risk of crumbling. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
There have been several developments in the Raac crisis. (Getty Images)

What's happening? The government has published a long-awaited list of education settings in England with collapse-prone reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Racc).

A total of 147 places have been identified by the Department for Education (DfE) – which has set out mitigation measures schools have been forced to take.

It comes after more than 100 schools were ordered to fully or partially shut buildings before the new academic year due to concerns about Raac.

The row over England’s schools dominated Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs), where Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer quizzed Rishi Sunak over the crisis and claimed “the cowboys are running the country”.

A list of schools in Scotland with Raac will be published by the end of this week.

Yahoo News rounds up some of the key developments from the Raac crisis today:

Gillian Keegan’s department ‘gave £1m from schools rebuilding pot to company linked to husband’

Labour has raised concerns about education secretary Gillian Keegan and a potential conflict of interest after it was revealed that a company associated with her husband was awarded a £1 million contract from a schools rebuilding fund.

The Department for Education denied any ministerial involvement in the procurement process of the contracts.

However, shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson argued that the optics do not bode well for Keegan.

Crumbling concrete schools would have been rebuilt under scrapped scheme

Remedial work being carried out at Mayflower Primary School in Leicester, which has been affected with sub standard reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac). Picture date: Monday September 4, 2023. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
Remedial work being carried out at Mayflower Primary School in Leicester. (Getty)

A BBC investigation found at least 13 schools now confirmed to have Raac were included in the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme which then-education secretary Michael Gove axed in 2010.

The project was meant to renew every secondary school in England, rebuilding half of them and refurbishing the rest.

Daniel Kebede, general secretary for the National Education Union, claimed there would not be any Raac in a single secondary school in England if the programme had continued.

DfE accused of covering up crumbling concrete at school

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 01: Scaffolding is seen outside classrooms as repair work continues at Hornsey School for Girls on September 01, 2023 in London, England. The school has rushed to reinforce a number of classroom ceilings after being notified of the potential collapse of structures using a certain type of aerated concrete. Over 100 schools across England have been told that they need to close buildings or implement emergency safety measures due to the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), a lightweight but less durable type of concrete used extensively in the latter half of the 20th century. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Scaffolding is seen outside classrooms as repair work continues. (Getty)

The government has faced allegations of concealing evidence for several months regarding collapsing concrete at a school in Scotland.

The DfE had dispatched health and safety experts to investigate the decay of aerated concrete in the building of the privately run Queen Victoria School, in Perthshire, back in May.

But Scottish government sources claim they only found out about this last Thursday, and the DfE has refused to send them the expert evidence it collected.

Some schools with crumbling concrete may have to be demolished

A taped off section inside Parks Primary School in Leicester which has been affected with sub standard reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac). More than 100 schools, nurseries and colleges in England have been told by the Government to close classrooms and other buildings that contain an aerated concrete that is prone to collapse. Picture date: Friday September 1, 2023. (Photo by Jacob King/PA Images via Getty Images)
A taped off section inside a primary school. (Getty)

Some experts have warned that English schools found to have Raac may have to be demolished.

Remedial work in some education settings containing Raac could be complicated due to asbestos issues.

According to Steve McSorely, director of structural engineering consultancy Perega, it may be better to demolish a school and construct a new one in severe instances.

Hospitals warned to be ready for evacuation

As the scale of crisis engulfing schools becomes more apparent, attention has turned to other public buildings which may be suffering from the same problem.

As a result, nurses have urged NHS bosses to share emergency plans following reports Trust chiefs have received a letter from NHS England mentioning that 27 sites were found to have Raac.

Hospitals have been advised to prepare plans including the "decant of patients and services where Raac panels are present in clinical areas".

The letter urged the trusts to ensure that they had properly identified and managed the concrete.

Schools say concrete surveys were sent back month ago

BATHGATE,SCOTLAND - SEPTEMBER 04: A general view of scaffolding at Balbardie Primary School on September 04, 2023 in Bathgate, Scotland. Councils across Scotland are reporting schools that have reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in their buildings as over 100 schools in England have been told that they need to close or implement emergency safety measures. The concrete is a lightweight but less durable type of concrete used extensively in the latter half of the 20th century and the buildings are at significant risk of crumbling. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
A general view of scaffolding at Balbardie Primary School in Bathgate, Scotland. (Getty)

It has been claimed a small number of schools have said they sent back surveys regarding Raac “months ago” despite receiving a subsequent "telling-off" letter from the Department for Education earlier this week instructing them it was "imperative" they return questionnaires by September 8.

One headteacher has suggested the government may be guilty of a lack of proper record-keeping, warning that their responses may have been "lost."

The headteacher, who was speaking anonymously, told the Evening Standard: “We responded months ago and still received a telling off letter. What is the DfE doing? Have they lost our forms? They’re the ones that need to get organised.”

It follows Gillian Keegan's hot-mic comments earlier this week, in which she indicated "everyone else has sat on their arse” while she tried to fix the scandal.