Synergy News & Blog: News
Does your School have Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC)?
On Thursday 31st August, the government announced that more than 100 schools in England will have to shut buildings containing reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) and they’ve been told they must introduce safety measures.
This news arrived just before the start of the autumn term causing major disruption to teaching and learning, with some pupils being told they will have lessons remotely or in temporary classrooms.
So, what is RAAC?
RAAC is a lightweight form of concrete that was used in school construction from the 1950’s to the mid 1990’s.
A common application of RAAC is roof decks. Many schools will not know whether or not they have RAAC in their buildings, especially as it is often concealed by suspended ceilings, or the surfaces have been heavily painted or coated etc.
RAAC panels have deficiencies making them less robust than traditional concrete. This increases the risk of structural failure, which can be gradual or sudden with no warning. The sudden failure of RAAC panels is dangerous with potentially serious consequences.
The DfE has been considering RAAC as a potential issue since late 2018 following the collapse of a primary school roof in Kent. Since then, it has worked with other bodies to issue warning notes, expand its data collection programme and issued a guide for identifying RAAC.
Since summer 2021, DfE has assessed the threat to safety in school buildings as a critical risk.
According to a recent report from the UK National Audit Office (NAO) the DfE is now focusing on around 15,000 schools with buildings constructed between 1930 and 1990.
The DfE recently sent all responsible bodies a questionnaire asking whether their building contained RAAC. As of May 2023, around 42% of these schools had told the DfE they had completed work to investigate if they have RAAC. The remaining 58% had either not responded, not completed work or were unaware of the risks posed by RAAC.
Through this and wider work the DfE have so far identified 572 schools across the UK that might have RAAC as a major component.
Prior to the latest government announcement, it was also recently reported in ‘Schools Week’ that the DfE had told four schools, in Essex and the north-east, to immediately close after the discovery of RAAC resulting in their temporary closure.
Resolving RAAC issues:
As highlighted above there are many schools which are still yet to investigate the potential of RAAC on their school estate. We have been collaborating closely with clients in the education sector on this matter. Every RAAC-related issue requires a tailored approach. If you would like to discuss investigating RAAC concerns in your school, please contact us here for more information.
Please find link to the DfE RAAC guidance here, December 2022 Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete: estates guidance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
BBC News Article, September 2023 ‘Schools with dangerous concrete race to replan start of term’ (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-66673971)
National Audit Office Report ‘Condition of School Buildings’ for the DfE, 28 June 2023 – Condition of school buildings (nao.org.uk)
Schools Week Article, July 2023 RAAC: Schools forced to close due to concrete ceilings (schoolsweek.co.uk)