- Accusations Against Rishi Sunak for Funding Cuts in School Reconstruction Program
- Risks Posed by Hazardous Concrete in English Schools
- Rishi Sunak Responds to the Concrete Crisis and Disputes Blame
Rishi Sunak has been accused of “putting children’s lives at risk” after a former senior official at the Department for Education (DfE) said he slashed funding for a reconstruction program while chancellor.
Rishi Sunak said it “completely and utterly wrong” to accuse him of underfunding England’s school renovation initiative.
Concerns about reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), which is prone to collapse, have necessitated the partial or complete closure of 104 schools this week, delaying the start of classes for thousands of students.
Students may be taught in temporary classrooms, at various locations, or even be required to participate in remote pandemic-style lessons.
In his first comments since the scandal broke, Mr. Sunak stated that 95 percent of English schools were unaffected, leaving open the possibility that more than a thousand schools could still be affected by RAAC concerns.
He stated, “Of course, I am aware that the timing is inconvenient, but I want to give people a sense of the scope of what we’re dealing with here: there are approximately 22,000 schools in England, and it’s important to note that we anticipate that 95% of those schools will not be affected by this.”
If, as Mr. Sunak stated, 5% of institutions are affected, 1,100 schools would be affected.
However, the official spokesperson for the prime minister indicated that the safety concerns will not be as prevalent.
After a beam previously believed to be secure collapsed, the government issued a last-minute warning to schools about RAAC.
While the advice previously advised removing RAAC in critical condition, ministers now urge removing all RAAC.
Concerns about the material, which was used extensively from the 1950s to the mid-1990s, have been voiced for decades.
Previously, Jonathan Slater, who served as secretary of the Department of Education (DfE) from May 2016 to August 2020, asserted that the Treasury had failed to completely fund school rebuilding schemes, including during Mr. Sunak’s tenure as head of the department.
He was “absolutely amazed” that a decision was made to halve the school rebuilding program after he departed the department.
As DfE director, Mr. Slater said up to 400 schools must be replaced annually, but only 100 were funded.
Mr. Slater stated that certain institutions posed a “critical” threat to life.
He stated: The Spending Review of 2021 requested doubling the 100 to 200, which we initially thought possible.
Despite my predictions, the chancellor halved the programme in 2021.
When asked if he caused the concrete issue, Mr. Sunak said, “I believe that to be entirely false”.
During my first spending review in 2020, I announced a 10-year school re-building programme for 500 schools.
“This amounts to approximately fifty schools per year that will be renovated or rebuilt.
“If you examine what we’ve done over the past decade, it’s completely consistent with what we’ve always done.”
PM ‘placing lives at risk
However, Labour insisted that Mr. Sunak “bears enormous responsibility for his role in this debacle,” arguing that funding for the reconstruction of schools has been cut over the years.
Between 2019 and 2020, school rebuilding cost £765 million, but reduced to £550 million in 2020, according to the party.
From 2021 to 2022, spending decreased to £416 million, the party said.
Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, stated, “Children sitting under steel girders to prevent the roof from caving in will be the defining image of 13 years of Conservative-run education.”
“Rishi Sunak bears huge culpability for his role in this debacle: he doubled down on Michael Gove’s decision to axe Labour’s schools rebuilding program and now the chickens have come home to roost – with yet more disruption to children’s education.”
The Department of Education has thus far refused to identify the affected institutions.
There will be ‘extra money’ available. – The Sunak
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan agreed to deliver a list of specific crisis-affected schools on Monday.
She also clarified expense concerns, insisting that her department would pay for repairs and temporary housing.
Ms. Keegan said the concrete crisis will cost “many millions”. But could not say how much the DfE will have to set aside.
Despite Ms. Keegan and Treasury sources indicating that the funds will be allocated from the DfE’s existing budget. Mr. Sunak stated that “extra money” will be made available.