Starmer attacks Sunak's Tory 'cowboys' as full list of closures revealed – The Independent

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Prime minister ‘makes no apology’ for Raac decisions as Labour asks if he is ‘ashamed’ over crisis caused by 13 years of ‘botched jobs’
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Sir Keir Starmer has blamed the crumbling concrete crisis on “cutting corners” and “sticking plaster politics” as he grilled the prime minister in PMQs today.
The Labour leader: “It’s the sort thing you expect from cowboy builders saying everyone else is wrong, everyone is to blame, protesting that they’re doing an effing good job even if the ceiling falls in – except in this case the cowboys are running this country.”
He added: “Isn’t he ashamed that after 13 years children are cowering under steel supports, stopping their classroom roof falling in.”
Rishi Sunak said he was not sorry for the decision to close around 100 of the 156 schools with Raac, saying he would “make no apology for acting decisively in the light of new information”.
It comes as the Department for Education has published a full list of the schools affected with Raac in England.
Are you a parent whose child has been affected by RAAC closures? E-mail alexander.butler@independent.co.uk
Former education secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan was “frustrated” at lack of funding for rebuilding ageing schools while education minister.
“Having been a treasury minister myself, of course, I know that all departments put in significantly higher spending bids than they know that they’re going to achieve … The Treasury never, ever says, yes, you can have everything overall – but they’re going to have to now,” Baroness Morgan told Times Radio.
Former education secretary Baroness Nicky Morgan was “frustrated” at lack of funding for rebuilding ageing schools
The senior Tory added: “What we can’t now have is second guessing by the Treasury when the scale and the amount to be spent is fully quantified, the Treasury is going to have to find that money.”
The head of the National Audit Office (NAO) has accused Rishi Sunak’s government of a “sticking plaster approach” to buildings repairs in scathing remarks about the crumbling schools crisis.
Gareth Davies, head of the spending watchdog, said the government had neglected the “unflashy” job of maintaining public buildings in usable condition.
Writing in The Times, the NAO chief said families where schools had been forced to close were now paying the price for “underinvestment”.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Education Secretary Gillian Keegan
Davies said the NAO had warned about underinvestment in schools and hospitals, mourning the “lack of a robust long-term programme of building maintenance and replacement”.
“The underlying challenge is that adequately funding responsible capital programmes for our public services leaves less for higher profile projects,” said Davies.
“Failure to bite this bullet leads to poor value, with more money required for emergency measures or a sticking plaster approach.”
Education minister Nick Gibb has claimed that the Tory government is “world leading” in its management of the crisis surrounding crumbling schools.
The schools minister said no country had done more to identify the problem with Raac – despite criticism from opposition parties, ex-civil servants and the spending watchdog that the problem is there because of underinvestment in repairs.
Asked about education secretary Gillian Keegan’s sweary outburst – in which she claimed to have done a “good f****** job” – he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “This was an off-the-cuff comment.
Schools minister Nick Gibb said the Tory government’s response was ‘world leading’
“She’s apologised for the language used. What she was trying to get across is the huge amount of work that the DfE has done,” Mr Gibb said.
He added: “We are world leading in terms of identifying where Raac is in our school estate.”
Earlier on Sky News, Mr Gibb said: “We are taking more proactive action on that than any other government in the world.”
Schools minister Nick Gibb said a list of schools affected by crumbling concrete will be published “before Friday” as he put the delay down to the need for it to be “accurate”.
Nick Gibb told the Today programme: “My understanding is that all the schools on the list have communicated with their parents. The issue is getting the information accurate, the mitigations for each school.
“In some schools will just be one room or one cupboard where there’s Raac. In others it will be the sports hall and we will have this list published this week.”
The government has said that 156 schools were built using Raac. Some 104 require urgent action and have had to be closed, while 52 have already received repairs.
Schools minister Nick Gibb has admitted that the Department for Education (DfE) had asked for £200m a year for school repairs – only to be given £50m a year by then chancellor Rishi Sunak.But Mr Gibb insisted that it did not amount to a cut, as claimed on Monday by former DfE permanent secretary Jonathan Slater.
Asked if Mr Sunak had cut funding in the face of warnings of a “critical risk to life”, Nick Gibb told Sky News: “It’s simply not true.”
“We put in a bid for £200m. But what Rishi agreed to was to continue the rebuilding programme – 50 a year – consistent with what we had been doing since we came into office in 2010,” said the minister.
Defending the decision, Mr Gibb said: “50 school buildings a year is what the system can cope with. The Treasury has to compare that bid with all the other priorities right across Whitehall.”
Parents and grandparents dropping children off for the first day of the new term at Eldwick Primary School, near Bradford, said they had been kept well informed of the Raac issues by the head but were still unsure exactly what will happen in the coming weeks.
One woman said: “My daughter’s really happy to be back and I don’t think there’s much change from her point of view.
“They’ve spent a lot of time rearranging everything inside and I think the school’s done everything it can to make sure it’s as normal as possible for the kids.”
Eldwick Primary School, which has been affected by the RAAC chaos
Another woman, who was dropping-off her grandchild, said: “I think parents have been calmed down a lot by the head, who is really good and has kept everyone really well informed over the last few days.
“It’s a bit of a maze in there but things are happening. I don’t think anyone really knows how long this will last, though.”
Eldwick is one of two primary schools identified by Bradford Council as having reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) present – the other being Crossflatts Primary, in nearby Bingley.
Parents and grandparents dropping children off for the first day of the new term at Eldwick Primary School, near Bradford, said they had been kept well informed of the Raac issues by the head but were still unsure exactly what will happen in the coming weeks.
Buckhurst Hill Community Primary School in Essex said it had identified that aerated concrete was present in its central building and that four classes will need to be taught at a nearby school while this is addressed.
It said reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) was in the roof, affecting eight of 14 classrooms, the dining hall, part of the kitchen, some children’s toilets, administrative offices and a staff room.
Of the eight affected classes, alternative space has been found at the school for half, while the remaining four will be taught from a nearby school in the same trust whose buildings are unaffected by Raac.
The school said it would rely on packed lunches to meet the needs of children on free school meals, with arrangements in place from Monday.
Buckhurst Hill Community Primary School in Essex said four classes would be taught at a nearby school
“Staff have worked around the clock to get pupils back to school and to these new temporary arrangements as soon as possible,” the school said in a statement.
“We are fortunate to be part of a very positive and collaborative school community – parents, staff and the wider community have been completely supportive, enabling us to focus on the safety and education of our pupils. As you will appreciate, this has been a challenging period.”
Buckhurst Hill Community Primary School in Essex said it had identified that aerated concrete was present in its central building and that four classes will need to be taught at a nearby school while this is addressed.
The Labour Party has mocked Education Secretary Gillian Keegan’s claim “most” schools are unaffected by RAAC chaos.
On Twitter, Labour Press posted a graphic reading “Most beachgoers not eaten by big shark” in response to a similar one posted by Ms Keegan, which claimed “Most schools unaffected.”
Ms Keegan said: “The vast majority of schools will be unaffected by RAAC. For those that are affected, we are working non-stop to mitigate any disruption to education, and protect pupils and staff.”
One user replied: “A Tory boast… Most schools aren’t crumbling down! Well, well-done you.”
The chief executive of an education trust said he learned of developments in concrete concerns at schools “by watching TV and listening to radio”, adding that he “wasn’t directly communicated with about the change”.
Oliver Burwood, chief executive officer of the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust, said it was fortunate he and fellow staff had been engaged with the issue.
“Some of my reflections about how the news was shared – myself and my head of estates and the headteacher involved found this out by watching TV and listening to radio,” he said.
“We weren’t directly communicated with about the change. There was a level of fortune there I’d say that we were on top of this issue because we’re all engaged and interested in it.
“The bigger question I suppose as a leader and as a parent is at what point was there really enough information to understand that Raac was not safe.
“We all follow the guidance that we’re told but could that guidance have been shifted earlier because it sounds like even though we’ve got everything in place now, there has been a period in schools when perhaps this Raac has been present and hasn’t been safe.”
The chief executive of an education trust said he learned of developments in concrete concerns at schools “by watching TV and listening to radio”, adding that he “wasn’t directly communicated with about the change”.
Gillian Keegan came under fresh pressure over her future amid growing anger among Tory MPs.
One told The Independent: “Like virtually everyone else in this Government she is a technocrat not a politician. She can probably survive. (There is) no point in replacing her if just the same old”.
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