Schools to open as usual as checks find no crumbly concrete
Checks of schools find no RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete).
As pupils return to the classroom this week, schools across West Berkshire will be opening as usual with none of the problematic crumbly concrete having been identified locally.
In recent days there have been news reports about the Department for Education (DfE) requiring school buildings using RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) to be vacated on safety grounds. This type of concrete, used between the 1950s and 1990s, has been found to be less durable, and more susceptible to structural failure when it's exposed to moisture. It has a lifespan of around 30 years, and the DfE last week updated its guidance to require any school building using this material to be vacated until they can be made safe.
West Berkshire Council has been following the DfE guidance and had already completed a visual inspection of all its schools that fall within this guidance. This has not found any indication of the use of RAAC in any of the school buildings it's responsible for and as such all schools are safe to open as usual this week.
In addition to the visual inspections, and with safety our utmost priority, we will be undertaking some further, more intrusive, work at a number of schools in the district (for example, where access has been difficult). Although this is being done as a precautionary measure we have plans in place in the unlikely event that this material is found to be present.
"I'm sure that, like me, many people will have been concerned by the news reports but I'd like to reassure them that our schools are safe. We have been following the national guidance, inspected the relevant schools and not found anything to worry about. Out of an abundance of caution there is a little more work to do at some of them but there is nothing to suggest there is any cause for concern.
"The start of the school year can be a busy and sometimes stressful time for parents and I hope that the reassurance we can offer in this regard makes that transition back to school a little bit easier."