What is RAAC and how can it impact the education sector?

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04 September, 2023

Sheroze Nadeem
Associate, Commercial Litigation

The post-war construction boom saw almost 15,000 schools built between the 1940s and 1980s. The recent announcement on 31 August 2023, lead to there being a total of 156 schools affected with safety mitigation measures in place against RAAC. The recent announcement founds that the start of a new term the schools must exclude staff and pupils from buildings which contain RAAC, given the likelihood of a school building collapse - now assessed as "very likely and critical". This has led to an outcry in that that the Government has not acted quick enough despite its knowledge of the risks.

What is RAAC and how is it impacting schools?

Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete is a mixture of concrete, water and limestone. It is a lightweight bubble of concrete. It is commonly found in panels - principally but not exclusively on flat roofs, although it was also used in walls and floors.

A major concern to point out is that the Government in its written guidance to schools affected by RAAC stated that it will not cover the financial cost of any emergency temporary accommodation and that costs must be met through the existing school budget. There has since been a change in stance and it is suggested that The Department for Education is providing support including (1) Providing funding for essential immediate work, (2) Assigning a dedicated caseworker to each school/college affected.

The government has been aware of RAAC in public sector buildings since 1994. In 2018, the Department for Education published guidance for schools about the need to have adequate contingencies in place for the eventuality that RAAC-affected buildings need to be vacated at short notice.

What does this mean for construction experts and the education sector?

It is important that the matter be addressed as early as possible, if you are unsure on what this means an your school has been impacted, do urgently reach out to one of our construction specialists as from a legal standpoint, the liabilities could be substantial. Schools, local councils, and potentially past contractors could be implicated in a series of complex legal disputes over responsibility for material failures or incidents which may be avoided.

It is safe to say that there is an urgent need for a transparent, coordinated approach among government bodies, schools, and construction experts to manage both the immediate safety risks and the long-term legal implications of the above, however no further details have been shared and who will be responsible for this process remains to be seen. The Department for Education has its own construction framework, but if local authorities are made responsible for the rebuild, they could use their own frameworks or use procurement bodies. The other issue for the government could be capacity, with the construction industry still highly active and facing a mounting labour shortage issue with many employers applying for work visa's for a shortage of specialists trades this is a matter that whilst needs to be addressed soon, is likely not to be as soon as we would hope.

For more information contact Sheroze Nadeem in our Education department via email or phone on 01772 220163. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Education department here

RAAC - What next? 

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