Concerns raised of possible risks to Norfolk students as government announces closure of over 100 UK schools

31 Aug 2023

North West Norfolk Liberal Democrats are looking for urgent reassurance for parents and children at West Norfolk schools, following the announcement by the government that many school buildings containing RAAC concrete must be immediately closed. It was established in 2019 that 58 schools in Norfolk were to be examined, 5 in North West Norfolk, as they were built during the period of time when RAAC was commonly used in construction techniques. Of particular concern to councillors Rob Colwell and John Crofts are schools in their divisions on a preliminary list that had to be examined, to include Fairstead Community Primary and South Wootton Infant School.

Other West Norfolk schools that were examined include Terrington Saint Clement Community School, West Winch Primary School and Hunstanton Primary School.

In March 2022, all schools were asked to complete a questionnaire about their knowledge of RAAC and its presence in their buildings and asking how, if they had it, they were managing it. Liberal Democrat County Councillor Rob Colwell said “It feels like the government are dragging their feet and risking child safety, just as they did with the hospital rebuild delays. They have had this information for some time now and to announce these school closures with less than a week before schools were to reopen for the new school year seems like a panic without a plan. School leaders and teachers do not need this last minute chaos and would prefer to spend their time focusing on planning and teaching.”

On the work undertaken by Norfolk County Council, Cllr Colwell said “I understand that of the 58 schools explored by Norfolk County Council, that remediation work was carried out where necessary. I hope details of this work are provided urgently. Even if no Norfolk schools are facing immediate closure, parents are entitled to know where works and prop installations have been undertaken. This is the reality of years of Conservative neglect of our school buildings.  Parents, teachers and pupils around the UK will be horrified that children have been taught in unsafe buildings and cannot return to school next week. Instead pupils face more misery learning in temporary classrooms or being bussed miles to local schools”. He says pupil safety is paramount but "for this to come out just days before term starts is totally unacceptable".

Comparisons have been made by Cllr Colwell to the similar concerns over one of the county’s hospitals. “The local community are all too aware of the huge risks relating to RAAC concrete, as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital was built over 40 years ago and has only recently been placed on a list of hospitals that require urgent rebuild. The hospital has thousands of struts and failsafes and the Liberal Democrats in West Norfolk are demanding urgent transparency about which schools are at risk”.

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