The concrete crisis: is Britain falling apart? – podcast

After the conclusion of a protracted battle with teaching unions that meant school days were regularly lost to strikes, Rishi Sunak must have thought the new term would be something of a fresh start for his government with regards to education. Instead, more than 100 schools were issued a last-minute warning not to reopen certain buildings over concerns that children’s safety could be put in danger. Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) is a building material used widely in the post-war years that is weaker and cheaper than traditional concrete and prone to collapse when exposed to moisture over a long period. Its need to be replaced has been widely known and accepted but the structural failures of parts of buildings previously thought safe caused the government to drastically revise its advice.

Peter Walker, the deputy political editor, tells Nosheen Iqbal that the crisis could barely be worse for the government: it highlights specific failings in the way budgets and infrastructure projects have been managed over the lifetime of the Conservatives’ time in power – and it is emblematic of a country literally falling apart in some places.

For Michael Mccluskie, head of the Coast and Vale Learning Trust which runs Scalby school in North Yorkshire, the crisis has meant pupils at the school being shut out of their entire science block, at least until the new year. He says that while the existence of Raac in the school was known about, they had been led to believe that it was not a serious safety risk until now.

A sign at a school which says 'no entry'

Photograph: Adam Vaughan/EPA

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