Schools face RAAC and ruin

Children’s education crumbles along with the concrete

Curriculum cuts, bigger classes, fewer teachers, the critical situation facing state schools embraces far more than the RAAC debacle. Since coming to power in 2010, the Conservatives have known that schools built partly or entirely with RAAC needed swift attention. They dropped the previous Labour government’s Building Schools for the Future programme, leading to the cancellation of more than 700 school improvement plans that would have tackled the concrete crisis. Now, as RAAC reduces to ruin, and with the lives of children and staff potentially at risk, around 170 schools are fully or partially closed. More could follow as investigations continue. In 2018 the first significant collapse occurred in a primary school. In 2020 Sunak, then treasurer, was told that 300 to 400 schools a year needed to be rebuilt. He agreed to 100 a year, but in 2021 cut this to 50. The now PM has described recent claims that he is to blame for the RAAC crisis as “utterly wrong” and that the rebuilding programme was in line with “the previous decade,” meaning the 2010s.

A pretty lame excuse, and with rows and recriminations raging on, the widening cracks in the entire state education sector are further exposed. Headteachers and experts are quick to point out, not for the first time, that underfunding and ongoing inflationary pressures means a continuing recruitment and retention of teachers and teaching assistants emergency, which inevitably leads to bigger classes. And with already squeezed budgets tightened even further, a pared down curriculum also results in extracurricular activities, like school trips, are discontinued, and spending on musical instruments, replacing outdated computers, new books for the school library, and visits from interesting outsiders, such as authors, musicians, business people and others are cut. Meanwhile our millionaire PM has made eye watering donations to his old private school Winchester College, while in the summer he and his wife Akshata Murty gave $3m for a new computer lab to Claremont McKenna College in California, where Murty studied. Such a sum would have bought a lot of computers for UK state schools.

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