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Unions warn many school buildings ‘at risk of collapse’

Seven education unions have written to the Education Secretary demanding urgent action to tackle the school building condition crisis.

The call to make buildings safe comes after a damning official report last year revealed many post-war system builds using reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete were at the end of their design life and on the verge of collapse.

The department acknowledged the situation had reached crisis point late last year, admitting in its latest Annual Report  that there was risk of collapse of one or more blocks in some schools which were at or approaching the end of their designed life-expectancy and structural integrity was impaired.

The report warned the risk predominantly existed in buildings built between 1945 – 1970 that used system build’light frame techniques.  

In the open letter union chiefs state: “It is alarming that the report stated the risk level has been escalated from ‘Critical – Likely’ to ‘Critical – Very likely’, as long ago as July 2021, and that the direction of travel for this risk is assessed by the DfE as “worsening”.  

The letter also highlighted that department official had confided in previous meetings that buildings at risk could not be identified because the data collected was not sufficiently detailed.

The joint letter from unions – Community, GMB, NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, UNISON and Unite – has called for the education secretary to set out what measures the Government taken, and what measures will be taken, to eradicate the risk of collapse?

Community’s National Officer Helen Osgood said: “The Department for Education must take swift action on this matter as the health and safety of our children and education workforce is on the line.

“Prompt action is needed to identify any problem buildings as a matter of urgency.

“The current assessments of buildings are not thorough enough, which means that currently underlying structural problems go unnoticed.”

She said: “Funding must be provided, so schools can ensure that the buildings they occupy do not have any major structural issues.”