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September 3, 2023
RAAC Concrete – Huge Concerns in the UK

RAAC Concrete in Schools: An Examination of Concerns in the UK

The RAAC issue of building safety has never been more pertinent, particularly in the context of educational institutions where young lives are at stake.

Recently, much attention has been drawn to Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) used in the construction of schools in the United Kingdom.

This material has caused grave concerns due to its potential for premature aging, structural instability, and safety hazards.

This blog post will delve into what RAAC is, its historical usage in schools, and why it has become a subject of acute worry.

What is RAAC Concrete?

RAAC is a type of lightweight precast concrete made with aluminium powder as an expanding agent. Developed in the 1950s and 60s, it became popular due to its light weight, thermal insulation properties, and supposed ease of installation.

It seemed like an ideal material for the post-war construction boom, and it found its way into various building types, including educational institutions.

Historical RAAC Usage in Schools

During the 1960s and 1970s, a period characterised by rapid population growth and technological optimism, RAAC was seen as a ground-breaking innovation.

The urgency to provide adequate educational facilities made RAAC an appealing choice. With its good thermal and sound insulation properties, RAAC was touted as a solution to the many challenges associated with school buildings.

Unfortunately, this enthusiasm was not matched by a rigorous long-term study on the durability and safety of RAAC.

The Crux of the Concern

Structural Weaknesses

RAAC panels have been found to suffer from premature aging, which significantly affects their structural integrity.

The material can deteriorate over time, especially when exposed to moisture or extreme temperatures. This degradation can lead to structural weaknesses that compromise the safety of the building.

RAAC Safety Risks

Perhaps the most alarming risk is that of sudden and catastrophic failure. Unlike other construction materials that show signs of wear and tear, RAAC can appear to be in good condition even when it is not, making it difficult to assess the risk without specialised equipment and expertise.

Consequently, a structural failure in a school building could be abrupt and without warning, endangering students, staff, and visitors.

Inspection Challenges

Although some building codes require periodic inspections, the particular vulnerabilities of RAAC are not easily detected through standard procedures.

This means that even a well-intentioned maintenance schedule may not be enough to identify and remedy the issues in time.

Costs of RAAC Remediation

Addressing the weaknesses of RAAC often entails considerable expense.

Schools may need to be closed for extended periods for the repairs to take place, affecting educational outcomes and putting additional stress on communities.

Official Response and Ongoing Initiatives

In light of these concerns, governmental bodies and construction agencies in the UK have taken steps to address the issue.

Newer regulations have emerged that dissuade the use of RAAC in construction, particularly in structures like schools that are considered high-risk.

Several educational institutions built with RAAC have been identified and are in the process of being assessed or have already undergone remedial actions.

The government has also initiated various programs to help educational institutions meet the costs of these repairs.

The Role of Public Awareness

The issue of RAAC in schools is not merely a technical or regulatory concern; it has broad societal implications. Parental groups, educational organizations, and local communities have a role in advocating for safer school buildings. Awareness-raising campaigns about the risks associated with RAAC can put pressure on the authorities to expedite the inspection and repair processes.

Conclusion

The use of RAAC concrete in the construction of schools in the United Kingdom has led to grave concerns about safety and structural integrity. While initially seen as an innovative solution, time has shown that RAAC is prone to issues that can compromise the safety of school buildings. In a setting where the well-being of young individuals is at stake, the risks are intolerable. Thankfully, steps are being taken to assess and rectify these issues, but much remains to be done. The confluence of technical, financial, and societal elements makes this a complex problem that requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders to resolve effectively.

By understanding the gravity of the situation, the hope is that immediate action will be taken to ensure the safety of educational institutions across the United Kingdom. Future generations should inherit school buildings that are not just conducive to learning but are also, above all, safe.

While RAAC serves as a cautionary tale, it also underlines the necessity of rigorous testing and thoughtful consideration when choosing materials and methods for building educational institutions. In this regard, the concerns surrounding RAAC are a call to action for everyone involved in the construction and maintenance of schools.

According to Sky News in their article this weekend, the below is the list of schools affected:

Aston Manor Academy, Birmingham

No students are expected to be on the school site until at least 11 September.

Aylesford School, Warwick

A significant area of the school will be closed while work is carried out and only Year 7s will be taught on-site on Monday, with Year 12s returning from Wednesday. The primary school is not affected.

Buckhurst Hill Community Primary School, Essex

The school is closed until 11 September while alternative teaching arrangements are organised.

Buckton Fields Primary School, Northampton, East Midlands

Clacton County High School, Essex

The school will be closed for all year groups on Monday, 4 September, with different arrangements by year group for the rest of the week.

Claydon High School, Suffolk

The school is considering delaying reopening or a partial closure.

Corpus Christi Catholic School, London

Crossflatts Primary School, Bradford, West Yorkshire

East Bergholt High School, Colchester, Essex

The school is considering delaying its opening or only opening some areas and is expected to update parents on Monday.

East Tilbury Primary School, Essex

Some parts of the school will be closed, with Year 1 pupils moved to share a block with Reception and Year 2 pupils relocated to the sports hall.

Eldwick Primary School, Bradford, West Yorkshire

Farlingaye High School, Suffolk

Some classrooms are set to be out of action and the school might need to delay reopening.

Ferryhill School, County Durham

The start of the new school year has been delayed, the school says. New starters are expected to start a week late, with the rest being taught online.

Hadleigh High School, Hadleigh, Suffolk

The school is considering delaying its opening or only opening some areas and is expected to update parents on Monday.

Hockley Primary School, Essex

Honywood School, Colchester, Essex

Some 22 classrooms are expected to close with immediate effect, with some pupils to do online learning and a rota system for year groups attending school.

Kingsdown School, Southend, Essex

Mistley Norman Church of England Primary School, Essex

Our Lady’s Catholic High School, Fulwood, Lancashire

School to be closed Monday, 4 September and Tuesday, 5 September.

Pershore High School, Pershore, Worcestershire

Ravens Academy, Clacton-On-Sea, Essex

The school will be closed for two days after RAAC was found in a roof.

Scalby School, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

Springfield Primary School, Chelmsford, Essex

St Anne’s Catholic Primary School, Harlow Green, Tyne and Wear

St Bede’s Catholic School and Byron Sixth Form College, Easington, County Durham

Opening delayed until 5 September.

St Bernard’s School, Bolton, Greater Manchester

St Clere’s School, Stanford-le-Hope, Essex

Parts of the school will be closed, with years 7, 11 and 12 prioritised for face to face learning.

St Francis Catholic Primary School, Ascot, Berkshire

St James Catholic School, Hebburn, Tyne and Wear

St John Bosco Catholic Primary School, Sunderland, Tyne and Wear

The school will be closed on Tuesday, 5 September, on which date further information is expected to be provided.

St Leonard’s School, Durham, County Durham

The school will not reopen for its first week after RAAC was found in panels used in the construction of the school building.

St Mary Magdalene Academy, London

St Teresa’s Catholic Primary School, Darlington, County Durham

The school will not reopen until at least 11 September.

St Thomas More Catholic Comprehensive, Eltham, London

St William of York Catholic Primary School, Bolton, York

The school is putting up temporary support structures and staff hope to reopen to as many pupils as possible on 11 September.

Thameside Primary school, Essex

Parts of the school have been closed, with a significant number of teaching spaces impacted. Expects its reopening to students to be delayed until 11 September.

The Appleton School, Benfleet, Essex

Three areas have been closed and three year groups are not expected to be back to school this week.

The Billericay School, Billericay, Essex

Arrangements have been made for some years to be on site while others learn online.

The Bromfords School, Wickford, Essex

The Gilberd School, Colchester, Essex

Years 8-11 will return to school on 11 September, with Year 7 pupils returning a day later.

Thurstable School, Essex

The school’s website has set out a phased reopening, with some years coming in and work also set online.

Waddesdon Church of England School, Buckinghamshire

Willowbrook Mead Primary Academy, Leicester

The school says it will be closed on Monday, 4 September.

Wood Green Academy, Wednesbury, West Midlands

The school says disruption to the start of term is possible and is conducting further investigative work.

Woodville Primary School, Chelmsford, Essex

School closed until 11 September.

Other schools reportedly affected:

Abbey Lane Primary School, Sheffield, South Yorkshire

Altrincham College, Timperley, Manchester

Arthur Bugler Primary School, Stanford-le-Hope, Essex

Baynards Primary School, Essex

Canon Slade School, Bolton, Greater Manchester

Carmel College, Darlington

Carnarvon Primary School, Bingham, Nottinghamshire

Cherry Tree Academy, Colchester, Essex

Cleeve Park School, Sidcup, London

Cockermouth School, Cumbria

Cranbourne, Basingstoke, Hampshire

Donnington Wood Infant School and Nursery, Donnington, Shropshire

Fulwood Academy, Fulwood, Preston

Greenway Junior School, Horsham, West Sussex

Holy Trinity Catholic Academy, Newark, Nottinghamshire

Jerounds Primary School, Harlow, Essex

Katherines Primary Academy, Harlow, Essex

Mayflower Primary School, Leicester

Myton School, Warwick

Northampton International Academy, Northampton, West Midlands

Outwoods Primary School, Atherstone, Warwickshire

Parks Primary School, Leicester

Roding Valley High School, Loughton, Essex

Sale Grammar School, Sale, Manchester

St Andrews Junior School, Hatfield Peverel, Essex

The school is reportedly closed until at least mid-September.

St Bartholomew’s Catholic Primary School, Swanley, Kent

St Benet’s Catholic Primary School, Ouston, County Durham

St Gregory’s Catholic Science College, Harrow, London

Stanway Fiveways Primary School, Colchester, Essex

Tendring Technology College, Essex

The Coopers Company and Coborn School, Upminster, London

The Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls, Acton, London

The Link School, Beddington, London

The Ramsey Academy, Halstead, Essex

Thomas Lord Audley School, Colchester, Essex

White Hall Academy, Clacton, Essex

Winter Gardens Academy, Canvey Island, Essex

Wyburns Primary School, Rayleigh, Essex

Do your children attend a school closed because of RAAC concrete – or are you unsure and need someone to attend and survey your school? Let us know at [email protected] or Contact Us

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