Eastbourne school named as one of those affected by RAAC concrete

An Eastbourne school has been identified by the government as having RAAC concrete.

It said Langney Primary Academy in Chailey Close is one of the school affected, although all students are receiving face-to-face learning on-site or nearby.

In a message sent to parents they were told that a survey of the school's buildings was undertaken by a surveyor in February 2023 and RAAC was identified in the ‘cantilever/overhang’ parts of some of the buildings.

The message adds that this was reported to the Department for Education (DfE) and at that stage the school, which had its first day of term on Tuesday, September 6, was assured that it could remain open.

It continues: "Our trust estates team have been, and continue to be, in regular communication with the DfE regarding action to take. Following the recent government announcement regarding RAAC we met with the DfE last Friday to discuss action to take and mitigations that could be put in place. We have been working hard to ensure full safety underneath the overhanging RAAC.

"On Friday evening we secured mitigating services including scaffolding and props to go up over the weekend in all RAAC areas. This means that any existing RAAC that could come loose would not fall down. We have risk assessed the whole site and we are very please that we can open as planned tomorrow. There is no concern regarding the inside of our buildings and no issue with staff and children being inside the classrooms. This has been a remarkably swift turnaround when we hear of other school's situations up and down the county.

"Our trust has fully prioritised safety and ensured that our children miss no more crucial learning time. We can all be very thankful to our Swale estates team who have been so dependable and supportive throughout."

Parents were told to reassure their children that the school is safe and they will need to be 'sensible' moving into the site.

The message continues: "There will be a long term plan to replace roofs that have RAAC around the outside."

A spokesperson from Swale Academies Trust, which helps run the school, said: “Swale Academies Trust believe that the safety of our students, staff and visitors across all our school sites is paramount and always a priority.

“Swale Academies Trust commissioned qualified structural surveyors to undertake thorough RAAC checks at Langney Primary Academy. External RAAC was identified as being present in the gutter and fascia in some parts of the school estate and so mitigating solutions were put in place. There is no concern regarding the inside of the buildings or classrooms.

“Risk assessments throughout Langney Primary Academy have been undertaken and the estates team at Swale Academies Trust is in ongoing communication with the DfE in regards to the situation.

“Langney Primary Academy opened as planned for term one of the 2023/2024 academic year on Tuesday, September 5. We are pleased to inform that there has been no loss to learning to our pupils and they have returned to school in positive spirits.”

Eastbourne MP Caroline Ansell, who was a governor at the school, said: “Langney Primary School has been aware of a RAAC issue since 2022 and its plans to remove it are well advanced. Due to the change in government advice over the summer, Langney has now accelerated those plans.

“Contractors were at the school on Friday [September 1] and the weekend to erect scaffolding and structural support in order for pupils to return on the first day of term. The school now has a dedicated DfE caseworker who met with the head on Friday following the government announcement. I was in contact with the head last week and met with him on Monday [September 4] in order to be certain the school has all the support it needs.

“I very much want to thank the head and Swale Academies Trust for how proactive they have been and for all the hard work they have undertaken over the weekend to allow the school to open safely and fully on the first day of term, with no lost learning time.”

The school has been contacted to see if they were aware of the issue in 2022.

Eastbourne’s Liberal Democrat parliamentary spokesperson Josh Babarinde said: “On learning this news, my council colleagues and I have immediately written to the headteacher to ask what support is needed to protect the safety and education of pupils and staff at Langney Primary Academy.

“Having been to school locally myself, it is especially appalling that years of underinvestment in our schools by this Conservative government have put local pupils’ and staff’s safety at risk.

“The government and the Conservative MPs who follow it must make step up immediately and provide all the resources need to protect the safety and education of the Langney Primary community, without delay.”

Concerns had been raised nationally around the lightweight building material Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC), which was used from the 1950s-1990s, as it is prone to collapse.

As of August 30, 156 'settings' were confirmed to have RAACon-site, 52 have mitigations in place, and 104 are putting mitigations in place.

At the start of the month East Sussex County Council confirmed that one school in the county had the unsafe concrete and an '‘urgent inspection of the site' would take place.