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College in Kenton to spend up to £2m on temporary classrooms due to RAAC issues

A Kenton school that revealed it has a building made of a dangerous type of concrete is to spend up to £2m on temporary classrooms whilst remedial works are carried out. The ceilings in the affected building were ‘propped up’ last year but more work is needed before students can move back in.

A building at St Gregory’s Science College in Brent was found to contain the crumbling concrete that sparked nationwide safety fears last year. Known as reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), the dangerous material was used to construct schools, colleges, and other buildings between the 1950s and 70s in the UK, but has since been found to be at risk of collapse.

The issue was originally expected to be resolved over a weekend, however, after further inspection, it was agreed that temporary accommodation would be used so that the necessary repair works could be carried out. This will commence during the summer holidays, with staff and pupils set to return to normality by the end of 2024.

The temporary units include a two-storey, six-classroom block, a one-storey art block, and a one-storey bathroom facility. The buildings will be positioned on the existing playground space, which is currently leased by the school, for the duration of the RAAC remediation.

As the site is situated within a locally listed park and land designated as open space, the approval has only been granted on a temporary basis. Some local groups, including the Friends of Woodcock Park, had raised prior concerns about the use of the site and wanted assurances that it will be put back to its original state.

A spokesperson for Friends of Woodcock commented against the application: “We appreciate the erection of temporary classroom buildings within the park is due to exceptional circumstances. We would like to see guarantees that when the RAAC problem is resolved, Woodcock Park will be restored to its original condition.”

Since the issues were first highlighted, the government has confirmed that 234 schools across England had RAAC. Of those, 119 need one or more buildings rebuilt or refurbished where the remedial work is more extensive. The 110 schools and colleges where work to remove RAAC will be on a smaller scale can access grant funding to pay for it. Those pupils affected have been forced to shift to online learning or be placed in temporary facilities.

Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Schools, Cllr Gwen Grahl, said: “Following on from the DfE directive in late summer 2023, St Gregory’s Catholic College completed works in late August / early September last year to prop up the ceilings in the RAAC affected classrooms.”

She added: “St Gregory’s Catholic College, Academy Trust, Diocese of Westminster, the DfE and Brent Council partnered together to propose temporary accommodation, so that further works could be carried out in the affected areas. The school is now using temporary accommodation.

“The additional remedial works are due to start in the summer holidays. Students and teachers will then be able to move back into the school. These works are expected to be completed by the end of the year.”