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Two Welsh schools close after dangerous concrete found

04 Sep 2023 4 minute read
Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi by Mx. Granger is marked with CC0 1.0.

Emily Price

Two schools in Wales have been closed over safety fears after they were found to contain dangerous and unstable concrete.

Pupils at Ysgol David Hughes and Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi in Anglesey will be unable to attend their first day back after the summer holiday whilst further safety inspections are carried out.

The two schools are the first in Wales to be confirmed to contain Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) – a material which was used in construction in many buildings between the 1960s and 1990s.

The Health and Safety Executive has warned that RAAC is now beyond its lifespan and could collapse without notice.

Its presence has been confirmed in a range of public sector properties across the UK including in over 100 schools in England.

Survey

UK Governments have been aware of some of the vulnerabilities of RAAC since the 1990s and the Welsh Government has been working with the UK Government and other Devolved Governments since 2018 in the management of the concrete.

In May, the Welsh Government commissioned a condition and energy survey of all state funded schools and colleges to highlight any structures suspected of containing RAAC for further inspection by specialist structural engineers.

In July, the UK Cabinet Office established a RAAC Working Group and the Welsh Government have said that although they attended the group’s second meeting in August “no new evidence in respect of RAAC risks or its management were raised at this meeting”.

On 31 August 2023 the UK Government announced new guidance on RAAC in education settings.

UK Government Ministers have since stated that a number of incidents happened over the summer period which led to there being a heightened safety risk.

However, the Welsh Government said that at no point was this new evidence flagged to them.

The Welsh Government today said that they have “repeatedly requested” details from the UK Government regarding RAAC risks and management but those details were withheld until around 7pm yesterday evening – less than a day before the new school term.

Jeremy Miles MS, Minister for Education and Welsh Language said that the evidence that was provided was “incomplete”.

Mr Miles said: “We continue to request detailed structural engineer reports that clearly set out the timeline and technical analysis of events leading up to last Thursday’s announcement of school closures.

“This can then be reviewed by officials and shared with local authorities who have statutory responsibility for school buildings in Wales.

“While only partial, the new evidence indicates that there may need to be a change in the approach towards how RAAC safety is undertaken and the health and safety management approach we may need to take.”

Extent

Further surveys will take place by local authorities across Wales in the coming weeks to verify the extent of the issue.

Mr Miles added: “We expect to have the results of that within the next two weeks. Upon receipt of this information we will engage with specialist structural engineers to work at pace with local authorities and further education institutions in Wales in undertaking urgent appraisal of any newly identified instances as to the presence of RAAC in education buildings. We anticipate completion of this work by the end of December.”

Rhun ap Iorwerth, Member of the Senedd for Ynys Môn and Leader of Plaid Cymru said: “The situation is a worrying one – I have already discussed it with Welsh Government’s Education Minister, and I understand from Anglesey County Council that they have been monitoring the buildings that contain RAAC annually as is required of them.

“I’m grateful to Anglesey Council for responding promptly and effectively. The priority now is to ensure that the further necessary security assessments that are required take place as soon as possible, and I will ensure that I am kept updated by Anglesey County Council and Welsh Government.

“It will then be necessary to find out why and how information was not shared earlier by the UK Government. Any parents who are seeking further information are welcome to contact my office.”

Anglesey Council Leader, Cllr Llinos Medi said: “This is an evolving and emerging national issue. We appreciate this will be disappointing for all staff and pupils. However, their safety is our main priority.

“We are putting plans in place for Ysgol David Hughes and Ysgol Uwchradd Caergybi to minimise any disruption to children’s education.

She added: “We are working closely with the Headteachers and staff at the affected schools. The schools will communicate further updates with parents/guardians and young people. A

“gain, our main priority is to ensure the safety of all our staff and young people.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
8 months ago

They have had all summer to think, plan and do…useless, all smiles and no action…

Iestyn
Iestyn
8 months ago

Do, this concrete was put in place between 30 and 60 years ago, and has a life-span of around 30 years. It’s not do much ‘dangerous concrete’ as a ‘dangerously short-sighted maintenance plan’. It’s hard to imagine that this is something that no-one has thought about until now, so why is it only now that people are closing schools in a panic? Is it another Grenfell situation (hopefully, without the tragedy) where everyone knows there’s a problem, but no-one is allowed to incur the cost of addressing it?o

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
8 months ago

Two out of five high schools, forty percent, on Ynys Mon and still counting, expect the same or more across Powis… What next, eh? Anything built on Government contracts… All the lovely old buildings that made way for this rubbish since the sixties: what a waste… A Government of ‘Ostriches’…a free bucket of sand with every ministerial appointment… When Rishi Ji said to those few folk in Richmond ‘I’m here to put the money back in your pocket’ he really meant me and mine… It is almost impossible to stand far enough back to see the enormity of the crime… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
8 months ago

12 of May 1999, 24 years ago just about the time the first batch of ‘aero’ concrete bars were reaching their sell/by date…

Perhaps the paperwork with the warranty had been binned !

What is the opposite of due diligence ? Who knows…?

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