Ellen Wilkinson School affected by crumbling concrete panic

Image above: Ellen Wilkinson School in Acton

One school in Acton has been found to contain autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC)

Ealing Council have confirmed that one local school, Ellen Wilkinson School For Girls in Acton, has been forced to close certain buildings due to safety concerns around autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) on site.

More than 100 schools across the UK have been ordered to close over fears that the potentially dangerous deteriorating concrete used in their construction between the 1950s and the mid-90s could lead to structural collapse.

Ellen Wilkinson School, which has the RAAC material causing concern in its canteen, science block, old gym and hall, will remain open. The buildings which have concrete causing concern have been closed and pupils have been told to bring in packed lunches while the canteen is out of service. Children on free school meals are being given vouchers.

Ellen Wilkinson is Ealing’s only all girls comprehensive school, the only one in Ealing so far to have discovered a problem. The boroughs of Hammersmith & Fulham and Richmond have told The Chiswick Calendar that no council-run schools are affected.

Hounslow Council could not outright confirm whether or not schools in the borough were affected but said they were “working swiftly” in the face of the Department for Education’s “untimely” announcement.

Image above: RAAC concrete

School asks media not to contact them

So far Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls is the only local school which has been directly affected by the crisis. It is unclear whether other local private schools are affected.

The school has communicated directly with all parents and carers about the situation and has asked media not to contact them directly or request access to the school.

An Ealing Council spokesperson said:

“We can confirm that no reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) has been found at any Ealing-owned school sites.

“However, it has been found at a foundation school in the borough – Ellen Wilkinson School for Girls in Acton – where it is present in some of the school’s buildings. The school will not need to close. Everyone’s primary concern is the safety of pupils and staff, and the affected areas have been taken out of use while safety measures are put in place and works arranged.”

On whether any schools had been affected in Hounslow, Councillor Lily Bath, Cabinet Member for Education, Children, Skills and Employment at Hounslow Council said:

“At the request of the Department for Education (DfE), schools along with the relevant responsible bodies across the country completed surveys on the presence of RAAC, providing them with a list of potential schools affected.

“Following the untimely announcement by the DfE, the Council is now working swiftly to assess any potential impact this may have on the pupils attending schools in our area before the start of the new term. Where there may be an impact schools will communicate as early as possible with parents and the local authority will support any school within the borough that may be affected with planning and mitigating action to support continuation of children’s learning.”

Image above: Ruth Cadbury speaking in the House of Commons earlier this year

“Shocking” that the Government have neglected and ignored schools, says Ruth Cadbury

There is still no comprehensive list of schools which have been affected published by the Government, but Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, said on Monday that the Department for Education was working on getting the list published “this week”.

Ms. Keegan was left defending herself on Monday after being recorded on a hot mic using the f-word and asked “does anyone ever say you’ve done a good job, because everyone else has sat on their arse and done nothing?”.

In a later interview she said she was sorry for her “off-the-cuff” remark.

Ruth Cadbury, the MP for Brentford and Isleworth, has condemned the Government’s response to the crisis. She told The Chiswick Calendar:

‘‘It’s shocking that after 13 years in power the Government have neglected and ignored our schools so much that they now face the prospect of ceilings and buildings collapsing. It is not right that as pupils and staff return to school they will be wondering about their safety.

Ruth went on to say that one of the first acts of the Conservatives in 2010 was to cancel the Labour Governments ‘Building Schools for the Future’, a scheme that would have benefitted schools across Hounslow.

On Monday the Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, was forced to defend himself after it was revealed he had cut funding for a schools repair programme when he was Chancellor. He is also accused of failing to provide a proper programme of funding for learning time lost during the pandemic.

“I am hoping to attend a briefing with officials and ministers to find out more information in full about how many schools are impacted in my constituency and the wider borough of Hounslow’’ said Ruth.