Northern Ireland news

Northern Ireland schools to be checked for collapse-prone concrete 'as a matter of urgency'

The NASUWT has called for checks to be carried out
Suzanne McGonagle Education Reporter

Schools in Northern Ireland are to be checked "as a matter of urgency" for a type of concrete that has led to the closure of buildings in England.

The Department of Education in the north said work will begin to ensure that the "necessary mitigations are put in place promptly" amid concerns about aerated concrete that is prone to collapse.

It comes after some school buildings in England, which were made with Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete, known as RAAC, have been forced to close over safety fears.

The material is a lightweight concrete used from the 1950s up to the mid-1990s which is being assessed after it was linked to the collapse of the roof at Singlewell Primary School in Kent in 2018.

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On Friday, UK government ministers were urged to "come clean" about the scale of the problems facing England's school buildings.

More than 100 schools and colleges have been told to partially or fully close buildings as children prepared to return to classes after the summer holidays because of fears over the concrete.

The Department for Education (DfE) in England said a minority of the state facilities may have to move completely and some children may be forced back into pandemic-style remote learning.

Amid the concerns, the NASUWT NI teaching union has written to Northern Ireland's permanent education secretary to ask for checks to be carried out at schools in the north.

Justin McCamphill from the union said: "Parents, teachers and pupils will be concerned to read news reports that the UK government are having to take take immediate action to address the risks associated with RAAC.

"The Department of Education now need to clarify what steps they are taking to ensure that school buildings in Northern Ireland are safe.

"Nothing is more important than ensuring the safety of children and young people and those who work in our schools."

The Department of Education told the BBC it has commissioned the Education Authority (EA) to carry out structural surveys to see if RAAC is present in schools in the north.

"This work is being taken forward as a matter of urgency to ensure that any necessary mitigations are put in place promptly," a spokesperson said.


Northern Ireland news