Around 700,000 pupils in England attend unsafe or ageing schools, according to a watchdog report

According to a report, approximately 700,000 children in England are receiving education in deteriorating school buildings that require significant repairs.

The National Audit Office (NAO) report reveals that the Department for Education (DfE) has classified the risk of injury or death resulting from a school building collapse as “very likely and critical” since 2021.

Teachers have informed the BBC about the dangers associated with sewage leaks and asbestos, as per their statements.

In response, the Department for Education (DfE) claims to have made substantial investments in the renovation and improvement of schools.

Stressing the paramount importance of school safety, an official emphasized that nothing takes precedence over it. The department has dedicated over £15 billion since 2015 to ensure the safety and functionality of schools.

However, the National Audit Office (NAO), an independent public spending watchdog in the UK, highlighted that the risks have remained unaddressed due to years of inadequate funding.

The NAO stated that the declining state of school buildings was adversely impacting students’ academic performance and the ability to retain teachers.

Steve Marsland, the head teacher of Russell Scott Primary School in Manchester, expressed his deep concern and anxiety about ensuring the safety of the 460 children at his school. He described experiencing “worry and panic” as raw sewage has repeatedly surfaced through the floors of the school.

Steve Marsland, the head teacher of Russell Scott Primary School in Manchester, voiced his outrage and described the situation as an “absolute disgrace.” Following the sewage floods, the school experienced a significant drop in attendance due to sickness. Marsland attributed the ongoing problem to inadequate construction practices that have persisted since 2015.

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According to him, prior to the rebuilding of his school building, energy bills amounted to £12,000 to £15,000 per year. However, after the reconstruction, the bills skyrocketed to £45,000 per year due to increasing energy costs. Presently, the monthly energy expenses are nearly £9,000.

Tameside Council expressed its agreement with Mr. Marsland’s disappointment regarding the construction work conducted in 2015. The council also affirmed its support for the school’s application to the Department for Education (DfE) for funds to rebuild the school.

According to the NAO’s report, there were regional discrepancies in the required expenditure per pupil to restore schools to a good condition.

The East and West Midlands regions exhibited the highest average per-pupil requirements, followed by certain areas in northern England, as indicated by the NAO’s report.

According to the report, over a third (approximately 24,000) of all school buildings in England had surpassed their estimated initial design life.

The report emphasized ongoing concerns regarding school buildings that still retain reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), a lightweight type of concrete that is susceptible to collapse. RAAC was extensively used between the 1950s and mid-1990s.

The Department for Education (DfE) has identified a total of 572 schools where the presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) is suspected.

Among them, 65 schools have been confirmed to have RAAC, and out of those, 24 schools have been deemed to require immediate action.

Additionally, the NAO report highlighted that poorly-maintained buildings pose a higher safety risk in terms of asbestos exposure.

Kate Chisholm, the executive head teacher of Oakfield Schools Federation in Gateshead, revealed that the school buildings, constructed in the 1960s, are “riddled with asbestos.”

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During an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Kate Chisholm expressed her concerns by stating, “Our school buildings have large glass facades, which became problematic last year during the intense heat as the internal temperatures reached 40°C, leading us to temporarily close the school.”

Philip Clayton, the Year 2 teacher, disclosed that temperatures in his classroom soared to 32°C earlier in the month. Despite efforts such as keeping doors open and utilizing fans, he stated that the heat frequently becomes “unbearable.”

Philip Clayton commented on the challenging conditions, stating, “The sweltering heat makes it extremely difficult to concentrate, despite our best efforts. It poses a significant challenge for both staff and students to carry out their work effectively. Although our staff are committed to delivering high-quality education, the building itself does not adequately support us in achieving that goal.”

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