The Appleton School in Benfleet, Essex, 35 miles east of London, is among of 174 schools affected by a national scare over unsafe concrete. File Photo by Trevor Harris/Appleton School, Benfleet/Wikimedia Commons
Sept. 19 (UPI) -- Britain's Department of Education said Tuesday that more schools were found to have been constructed from a type of "life-expired" pre-cast lightweight concrete that could cause them to collapse without warning, adding that the number is expected to rise significantly.
Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete, which is prone to crumbling, has been identified in 174 schools as the list has swelled from an initial 104 ordered on Sept. 1 to remain closed when the summer holiday ended to 147 a week later.
However, the department's revised list of RAAC-affected schools shows all 104 original schools are now fully open but 23 of those identified since have had to juggle between online and virtual classes and one school was forced to keep all its pupils at home.
Of the institutions impacted, 91 are primary schools, 67 secondary schools, with the remainder schools that educate primary and secondary students and 16-plus colleges, according to the list, which is expected to lengthen as the results of thousands of inspections commissioned by the government come in.
"School and local leaders deserve huge credit for making sure the vast majority of settings with confirmed RAAC are continuing to offer pupils face-to-face learning -- including all of the 147 schools initially identified two weeks ago," said Education Secretary Gillian Keegan.
"We will continue to work closely with affected schools and provide both expert and financial support to minimize disruption and keep staff and children safe."
Many affected schools have moved classes to temporary accommodation, on and off site, or are using internal scaffolding and propping to support ceilings made of RAAC, widely used in the roofs, floors and walls of buildings constructed from the 1960s through the 1990s.
The Department for Education's emergency action came after a RAAC beam of a type previously considered "low risk" collapsed at an empty school during the summer holidays, prompting the Health and Safety Executive to declare all RAAC unsafe and "liable to collapse with little or no notice."
RAAC has also been found in schools 16 Scottish local authorities with surveys to be conducted of 120 Northern Ireland schools.
Education officials came under fire from MPs on the Education Select Committee on Tuesday over the three days' notice schools were given that they could not re-open at the beginning of the Fall term, or that they would have to close off affected areas of their buildings.
The National Association of Head Teachers welcomed the update but accused the government of lacking a plan to "properly" repair or replace school buildings and years of neglect and underinvestment in school upkeep and building.
"This is an important update as it is crucial the government urgently gets a complete and accurate picture of which schools have RAAC and the actions needed to make sure every school is safe for children and staff," said NAHT General Secretary Paul Whiteman. "The 27 schools additionally identified today will all be working tirelessly to make sure children get the education they deserve despite the disruption."
"But we still need a real sense of a clear plan not just to put short-term mitigation measures in place, but to properly repair or replace buildings so they are fit for purpose. Propping up ceilings with metal poles is clearly not a serious option in the medium or long term."