Pupils ‘prefer portacabins to classrooms’, education secretary claims

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said ministers are ‘taking a cautious approach’ (PA)

Gillian Keegan has claimed pupils “petitioned” her to stay in portacabins because “they preferred them to the classroom” - as many have been forced into temporary facilities by the crumbling concrete crisis engulfing schools.

The number of schools found to contain dangerous crumbling concrete jumped on Tuesday to 174, with Raac found on 27 additional sites since the end of August.

MPs were told on Tuesday that Almost 250 temporary classrooms have been ordered to help schools in England affected by the Raac crisis.

And addressing parliament the education secretary said the portacabins some pupils are being taught in are “very, very high quality”.

Ms Keegan said: “I have been to a number of schools and seen children and met children in the portacabins.

“In the first school I went to the children were all petitioning me to stay in the portacabin because they actually preferred it to the classroom.”

The comments come just weeks after Ms Keegan apologised for saying others “have been sat on their a***s” and suggesting she had done “a f***ing good job” handling the growing crisis.

As the Department for Education (DfE) published the latest list of schools affected by Raac, it confirmed a total of 23 schools have been forced to adopt some degree of remote learning due to safety concerns over the concrete.

However, pupils in just one school are learning completely remotely, down from four at the end of August.

Many pupils in Britain were forced to resume their studies either online or in temporary facilities after the government ordered more than 100 schools to close over fears about the concrete, described as “80 per cent air” and “like an Aero Bar”.

Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) was used to construct schools, colleges, and other buildings between the fifties and mid-seventies in the UK, but has since been found to be at risk of collapse.

In total, the DfE has sent surveys to the bodies responsible for 15,158 schools deemed at risk or Raac, with buildings built between the 1930s and 1990s.

Ms Keegan had called on school leaders “get off their backsides” and respond to the surveys - as one in 20 had not done so earlier this month.

The response rate has now reached 98.6 per cent.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “We are taking a cautious approach so every parent in England can be reassured their child is safe in their school.

“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.

“We will continue to work closely with affected schools and provide both expert and financial support to minimise disruption and keep staff and children safe.”

The top DfE official Susan Acland-Hood told parliament’s education committee that the 250 classrooms have been ordered by at least 29 schools in England in response to the crisis.

The schools with Raac identified since the end of August are:

Ark John Keats Academy

Avenue Centre for Education

Baildon Church of England Primary School

Baskerville School

Buttsbury Junior School

Colyton Grammar School

Eldwick Primary School

Farlingaye High School

Farnborough College of Technology

Grantham College

Kingsbury High School

Marling School

Maryvale Catholic Primary School

Merrylands Primary School

Mulberry Stepney Green Mathematics and Computing College

Myton School

Ortu Corringham Primary School and Nursery

Ravens Academy

Selworthy Special School

St Joseph’s Catholic Voluntary Academy

Steeple Bumpstead Primary School

Stepney All Saints Church of England Secondary School

Surrey Street Primary School

The Link School

The Macclesfield Academy

Marple Sixth Form College (part of Trafford College Group)

Westlands School

The full list can be found on the government’s website here: