As you may be aware, the Government has announced that school buildings constructed by Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) must either be made safe or taken out of use.
I have had a conversation with the Schools Minister about this issue. In Harwich and North Essex, there are eight schools with an identified problem, and two further schools still requiring surveys to be done. There are 65 affected schools in Essex - more than in any other county - out of 156 in total so far identified.
Mistley Norman Primary School is already closed and pupils will be taken on by surrounding schools, and I have made clear to the Government and to Essex County Council that there must be funding and a timetable to demolish the defective buildings and build a new school as soon as possible.
But this disruption will come as a terrible shock to the other schools, to their pupils, parents and staff. In most cases, the Government will provide demountable class rooms to replace parts of schools that must be taken out of use, so schools can continue to operate. It will still take some time to establish what needs to be done in the case of each school. Where it is not clear what each school is expected to do in the meantime, I am ready to press Ministers and Essex County Council for clarity in each case. County Councillors have been already engaged with this for some months and Essex MPs are to meet them next week.
There remain questions to ask about how this situation has arisen and been allowed to persist for so long without being comprehensively addressed before now. I will be suggesting to the Chair of the House of Commons Education Committee that they look into this matter again, so that lessons for the future can be learned and implemented.
Schools with specific questions can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can make sure the Department for Education is addressing their requirements.