Concrete cladding crisis continues to cause disruptions

A Department of Education allocation of a caseworker to every school hit by safety concerns over the use of over reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) has come in for criticism.

And mother Sally Walsh, from Essex, illustrates the ‘nightmare’ faced by parents with one child told to stay at home and the other two in two different schools.

Mrs Walsh, a 44-year-old actress from Buckhurst Hill, said she is facing a “horrendous situation” with her 12-year-old instructed not to attend Roding Valley School this week because half the school is “unusable”.

Meanwhile her nine-year-old’s class, along with three others, will have to attend a different school, White Bridge Primary School, almost a mile away from his usual Buckhurst Hill Community Primary.

Her six-year-old will stay at Buckhurst Hill Community Primary but will be taught either in a “staff room, library or school hall.”

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Mrs Walsh said: “It’s a nightmare, I’m going to have three kids in three different schools plus the little one starting preschool this week.

“The community is really rallying around, we’re immediately getting offered help to take my children to school.

“But I’m still finding it upsetting because they’re my kids, I don’t want someone else to take them to school.”

She added: “My son who has to go to a different school altogether was heartbroken when he found out last night.

“You know he doesn’t even know the school, it’s completely alien to him, and it’s hard when we can’t put a time frame on it. I can’t say ‘for this many weeks you’ve got to do it and then it’ll be fine’.”

Alison Farquharson, headmistress of Buckhurst Hill Community Primary School in Essex, which has seen the closure of more than 50 affected schools, listed all the work carried out by her staff on an update to parents making it clear that there had been no help from any Department of Education case worker.

The school, which is closed until Monday September 11, now has the head’s office in a corridor and there has been a reorganisation of the kitchen and the special education needs classroom among others.

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reorganisation of the kitchen and the special education needs classroom among others.

Mrs Farquharson wrote: “I would like to make it clear that we do not have an allocated case worker and that the work so far has been organised solely by myself, my staff and parent volunteers.”

However, an education source queried the statement saying the caseworker plan is running smoothly and a caseworker from a regional Department for Education office met with the school leadership twice, including the headmistress and chair of governors.

Mrs Walsh called on Education Secretary Gillian Keegan to treat the RAAC crisis as a national emergency.

“There’s extreme disruption, I’m taking three kids to different schools and they’re talking about a time frame of six weeks to get new portable classrooms,” she said.

“Why is this not being turned around quicker? Right now this needs to be treated with more urgency, as an emergency, with more support for the schools financially.”

The concrete crisis has affected schools up and down the country and at Scalby School in Scarborough, North Yorkshire the severity of the problem means it will not fully reopen before Christmas.

A DfE spokesperson said: “We are continuing to ramp up the surveys of suspected RAAC and where it is identified we are allocating schools with a case worker to help put in mitigations or temporary accommodation as quickly as possible.

“We are incredibly grateful to school and college leaders for their work with us at pace to make sure that where children are affected, disruption is kept to a minimum, and in the even rarer cases where remote learning is required, it is on average for a matter of days not weeks.”

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