Primary school to use marquees as temporary classrooms due to RAAC in some areas

Key stage two pupils at a Berkshire primary school will use marquees as temporary classrooms due to the discovery of unsafe concrete. Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) was discovered at St Francis Catholic Primary School, Ascot, in July and work to make the premises safe is ongoing.

RAAC, which is weaker than traditional concrete, was also discovered in the roof of the school’s hall and kitchen area – both of which will also be temporarily relocated. Temporary marquee classrooms have been made on the school field, with the hall and kitchen set to be relocated there in the next phase of work, before the proper temporary classrooms become functional on October 6.

The news comes at a time when the government announced that schools must shut all buildings that have RAAC in their roofs, with 156 schools affected thus far. Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools, said the guidance update comes after the collapse this summer of a beam that was thought to be safe.

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In a letter sent to parents on August 25, Mrs Rhona Miccoli, headteacher of St Francis Primary said the school would open as normal on Wednesday (September 6) but that Key Stage two children and staff would be temporarily relocated in marquees. Despite searching for alternative options, marquees were deemed the “only option” to avoid remote learning.

The six-week delay before moving to “very high spec” temporary classrooms is to allow for the relevant survey, groundworks and connection to vital services to take place. The headteacher confirmed they would be furnished in time for the new school year but that the closure of the kitchen meant no hot meals could provided this half term, with grab bags instead provided.

Councillor Amy Tisi, Cabinet member for children’s services, education and Windsor, said: “We understand this is a worrying time for schools, parents and pupils. At this stage, we are not aware of any RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) in any state schools in the Royal Borough, with the exception of St Francis Catholic Primary School in Ascot.

“RAAC was identified in part of the school in July 2023, and the affected areas were closed. In liaison with the Department for Education and the council, the academy trust responsible for St Francis has arranged alternative classroom accommodation on-site to allow the school to re-open to all pupils at the start of the new academic year and has been in touch directly with parents around those arrangements.

“The Royal Borough continues to work closely with the Department of Education on its programme of RAAC identification in schools, and schools will keep parents updated with any developments.”

Elsewhere in Berkshire, Bracknell and West Berkshire Councils have confirmed that no schools in their respective areas are affected by the use of RAAC. Reading, Wokingham and Slough councils and are yet to confirm whether they’re affected.

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