Thousands of children are learning in potentially unsafe buildings, with MPs ‘extremely concerned’ about the Department for Education’s understanding of the risks, a new report says.
In its report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) found that 700,000 children are learning in schools that need major rebuilding or refurbishment.
The PAC said it was 'extremely concerned' that the Department for Education (DfE) does not have a good enough understanding of the risks in school buildings to keep children and staff safe.
The committee also criticised the DfE for a ‘lack of basic information’ on the concrete crisis in schools.
It raised questions around the reliability of the DfE’s information on the number and condition of schools affected by reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) and the Government’s attitude to risk within the school estate.
The committee said the Government’s school rebuilding programme ‘risks being blown further off course’ by RAAC issues, which will see many schools ‘in dire need of help’ for other reasons not receive it.
MPs also called for the DfE to develop a full picture of asbestos issues across the school estate.
PAC chair Dame Meg Hillier said: ‘A significant proportion of children in this country are learning in dilapidated or unsafe buildings.
‘This is clearly beyond unacceptable, but overcoming the consequences of this deficit of long-term infrastructure planning will not be easy.’
She said: ‘Given the poor condition of so many of these buildings, the Government’s prime challenge now is to keep the safety of children and staff absolutely paramount.’