The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Risk of Injury or Death From a School Building Collapse “Very Likely”

28 June 2023

The National Audit Office says that an estimated 700,000 children in England are studying in schools that need major rebuilding or refurbishment work.

Over a third (24,000) of English school buildings are past their estimated initial design life and the possibility of a building collapse or failure causing death or injury has been a “critical and very likely” risk since summer 2021. 

A separate report into sustainability found that The Department for Education (DfE) was yet to set a target to reduce direct emissions throughout the estate, despite being responsible for 37 per cent of emissions from public sector buildings.


“Significant Funding Shortfall”


The DfE calculates that £7 billion a year is needed as a best practice level to maintain, repair and rebuild the school estate. In 2020, it recommended funding of £5.3 billion a year to mitigate the most serious risks of building failure.

However, the department was only allocated an average of £3.1 billion a year, which includes funding to rebuild 500 schools over a ten-year programme. The report said that the DfE is making “slower than initially expected progress awarding contracts”.

Between 2016 and 2022, DfE spent an average of £2.3 billion a year.

Steve McGregor, Group Managing Director at DMA Group, a property maintenance specialist which works across the education space said: “The senior leadership teams across schools have shouldered immense, yet routine pressures in trying to reconcile the financial and operational challenges of delivering education in a cost-down environment. Compounded by the unprecedented cost-of-living and energy cost crisis these establishments are scrambling by cutting costs wherever possible, to the detriment of their buildings. Now it’s catching up.

“Purchasing lesser standard of parts will save money initially, but the increases in running, maintenance and replacement costs over the longer term will be a false economy. Buying the wrong or lesser quality kit will cost more, or even worse damage a premises, risk the health and wellness of its occupants, not to mention the reliability of the building.”


Concern With Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC)


Much like the UK’s healthcare estate, many schools were built using reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), a lightweight type of concrete with a limited lifespan. RAAC panels have low compressive strength, around 10-20 per cent of traditional concrete, reducing the shear and bending strength. It’s also very porous and highly permeable, so steel reinforcement within the panels is less protected against rusting than steel reinforcement in traditional concrete. 

The DfE has identified that RAAC may be present in 572 schools.

Picture: a photograph of a person sitting at a desk using coloured pencils. Image Credit: Pixabay

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 28 June 2023


Related Articles

Government Publishes Plan to Remove RAAC From all Schools in England

A final list of schools and colleges affected by Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete in England has been published, alongside a plan to remove it from all...

 Read Full Article
UK Concrete School Closures – What’s the Latest?

The government has announced that over 100 schools in England will need to close buildings because they are at risk of collapse. ThisWeekinFM looks at the latest on this...

 Read Full Article
Government to Publish Net-Zero Roadmap for Education Estate

The Department for Education has pledged to clarify how it will meet its sustainability targets. Baroness Barran, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the...

 Read Full Article
Asbestos Register Collaborates With EntrySign to Reduce Accidental Asbestos Exposure in Schools

The UK National Asbestos Register has joined forces with a contractor management company to help mitigate the risks of accidental asbestos exposure in UK schools and...

 Read Full Article
239 Schools to be Renovated in Government Rebuilding Programme

The Department for Education has added more sites to its ten-year programme of renovation projects for schools and sixth forms in England. Buildings will be...

 Read Full Article
England’s School Buildings are a ‘Risk to Life’ Says Government Leak

According to documents leaked to The Observer newspaper, deteriorating school buildings in England are a “risk to life.” The leaked emails are from...

 Read Full Article
Concrete and Nitrogen Mix Could Help Reduce Pollution

Adding nitrogen to concrete could help the construction industry on its journey to decarbonisation. The concrete sector currently generates 8 per cent of global CO2...

 Read Full Article
CIBSE Launches Flush Challenge for Primary School Pupils

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers has created an educational game to engage primary school pupils in the world of building services...

 Read Full Article
NHS Hospital Manages RAAC With New Geospatial System

Airedale General Hospital in West Yorkshire is using a new geospatial system to help manage its RAAC monitoring and repairs programme.  The software from...

 Read Full Article
Sodexo Retains FM Contract With Wellington College in Berkshire

Sodexo has re-signed a ten-year soft FM contract with private school Wellington College in Berkshire. The contract is worth approximately £80 million and...

 Read Full Article