Rishi Sunak accused of ‘halving’ school rebuilds as chancellor amid RAAC scandal

The government has been accused of halving the number of schools that could be rebuilt in the 2021 spending review. This review was conducted during the period Rishi Sunak served as chancellor. 

Former civil servant Jonathan Slater told the BBC that this was despite a recommendation from the Department for Education, where he served as the Permanent Secretary, to double the number to 200.

Slater said that from 2016 to 2020 around 300 to 400 schools needed to be refurbished per year.

But he was only provided funding to “replace about 100 schools per year”, he revealed.

He added: “It’s frustrating of course when for you the most important thing is for the priority to be given to safety.”

“The spending review was completed a year after I left the department, and I was absolutely amazed to see that the decision made by the government was to halve the school rebuilding programme down from 100 a year to 50 a year.”

At the time of this spending review in 2021, Rishi Sunak was chancellor.

It comes after new concerns were expressed last week by the DfE over RAAC, a lightweight, bubbly form of concrete that is usually found in roofs and occasionally in walls and floors. 

Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) is prone to collapse.

Analysis published by the Labour Party found that spending on school rebuilding between 2019 and 2020 was at £765 million, but this fell to £560 million the following year.

The Department for Education has said it contacted 104 more schools in the wake of analysis of new cases after 52 of the 156 educational settings containing the concrete took protective steps so far this year.

Education secretary Gillian Keegan has vowed this morning to publish a list of the schools affected by the concrete crisis this week.

Ms Keegan was asked whether it is possible that parents will send their children to a school without knowing it is on the list.

She told the BBC: “Well, we’re hoping that’s not the case, because we’ve spoken via the caseworker with each one of the schools and we’ve given them the template (letter to inform parents) and we’re just going to double-check that.

“We will publish the list, but I do want to double-check that the school has had the opportunity – because not all the schools are back yet – to tell all parents.”

Pressed further, she said: “We’ll publish it this week.”

Meanwhile, Labour has accused the government of being in “complete chaos” over unsafe concrete in schools.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson has said it is “vital” the government publishes the list of all affected schools “as soon as possible”.

“We are already seeing up to 100 schools closing with reports more might be forced to close,” she said.

“It’s a scandal that as children are just returning to school ministers are still not being upfront about the scale of what we are facing.

“If they don’t (publish the list), we’ll force a vote in the House of Commons to make sure that parents can know exactly what’s going on.”