Labour to force commons vote to reveal ‘full extent’ of Raac school buildings crisis

The Labour Party will try to force ministers to publish documents which detail the “full extent” of the Raac crisis facing Britain’s schools with a commons vote next week.

Shadow ministers plan to force a vote, by way of a Humble Address motion, to “reveal information about the full extent of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) in school buildings”.

The motion is expected to be tabled next Wednesday to force the government to reveal documents detailing how it has handled the crisis, The Independent reports. 

Schools minister Nick Gibb has so far insisted that a list of schools affected will be published “before Friday”, adding that delays could be explained by the need for it to be “accurate”.

Gibb also described the government’s response to the Raac crisis as “world-leading”. 

But asked how much fixing it was going to cost, he insisted he did not know. “In some schools it will just be a room or a cupboard … in others it will be pervasive throughout a school”, he said.

However, the Guardian has revealed this morning that the cost of fixing the school buildings crisis in England is approaching £150 million and could rise much further.

Ministers last week announced that any school with Raac in any condition needed to stop using affected buildings, instead of only those where the lightweight material was considered to be in a critical condition.

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 earlier this week 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.

Gibb later admitted that while he did not recognise the 400 figure, the DfE did ask for funding to overhaul 200 schools a year in 2021 only for the then-chancellor to agree funding for just 50 a year.

The prime minister has defended himself against accusations that he failed to fully fund a programme to rebuild England’s schools, claiming this suggestion is “completely and utterly wrong”.

The government also believes 95% of England’s 22,000 schools would be unaffected by the concrete crisis, he said. He also said that in some cases, the problem might be limited to a single classroom.

The government has been mocked for making the former assurance on Twitter, with Labour likening the message with the response of the dismissive Mayor from the movie Jaws. 

Labour is also currently calling for an “urgent, full audit” of buildings across the public sector amid reports that the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Defence could also be effected.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said parents and the public “have the right to know where public buildings affected by this dangerous concrete are”.

The education secretary Gillian Keegan said: “As chancellor, the PM introduced the School Rebuilding Programmes — delivering 500 schools over the next decade — on top of that the Conservatives have invested £15bn in schools since 2015.

“In addition, capital spending this year will be almost 29 per cent higher in real terms than last year. An independent review found Labour’s schools funding programme was badly targeted and complex.

“It did nothing to fix schools in poor condition, particularly those affected by RAAC. In contrast the Labour-run Welsh government have sat on their hands and failed to act on schools in Wales.”

Shadow chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Pat McFadden told Sky News this morning: “I don’t think Rishi Sunak has done the right thing by schools. 

“I’ve looked at the figures this morning of when he was chancellor, the capital budget for schools fell from over £700m a year to £500m and then £400m.

“He cut the budget for school improvements and that has contributed to the issues we have today.”