Gillian Keegan orders managers to ‘get off their backs’ to sort out crumbling RAAC

The education secretary has ordered school principals to “get off their backs” to complete investigations into whether their buildings contain dangerous crumbling concrete.

Gillian Keegan said one in 20 schools had yet to complete a questionnaire sent out last year and called on leaders to respond quickly as the crisis deepens.

The Department for Education (DfE) sent inquiries to bodies responsible for school buildings – including trusts and councils – to find out if their buildings contained reinforced aerated concrete (RAAC) after the school's roof collapsed in 2018. RAAC is a potentially hazardous material used in the construction of schools, colleges and other buildings between the 1950s and the mid-1970s in the UK.

The lightweight concrete form has been described as “80 percent air” and “like an Aero Bar,” and its presence at schools led to closures for more than 100 days before the start of the new school year.

Talking to you Jeremy Vine on Tuesday, Ms Keegan said: “There are 5 per cent of schools that have not responded to the survey.

“Now, hopefully, all this publicity will get them off their backsides.

“What I would like them to do is answer because I want to be the Secretary of State who knows exactly at every school where there is an RAAC and takes action.”

The education secretary's comments came a day after she was forced to apologize for a rant in which she accused colleagues of “sitting in their cells” over collapsing schools.

Gillian Keegan was filmed expressing her disappointment at the response to the Raat scandal after it was revealed that Mr Sunak had cut funding to rebuild the school when he was chancellor.

In footage released by ITV News, Ms Keegan – still wearing her microphone – criticized others and said she should be praised for doing a “good job”.

He said: “Does anyone ever say ‘you know what, you did a good job because everyone else was sitting on their person and doing nothing?'

The education secretary added: “There's no evidence of that, is there?”

After her latest outburst on Tuesday, unions attacked the education secretary.

National Education Union (NEU) boss Daniel Kebede said Ms Keegan's comments were “outrageous”.

“The fact is that the DfE has been many years behind schedule on this issue,” Mr Kebede said.

The NEU criticized the Tories for scrapping a program designed to address concerns such as the RAAC, Building Schools for the Future and the Primary Capital Schemes.

Mr Kebede said: “If these projects had not been cancelled, we would not have this crisis today. Rishi Sunak is constantly underfunding the repair of school buildings.

“The government has failed to show leadership on this issue for many years.”

And Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT union of school leaders, accused Mrs Keegan of “shifting the blame” to “get away from the government's significant failings”.

Mr Whiteman said: “The facts are clear: the current crumbling school estate is the direct result of ministerial decisions to cut capital budgets.”

He pointed out that ministers had been aware of the dangers of RAAC for “many years” but had only recently commissioned the investigations.

And he said, despite a series of warnings, the government was unwilling to pay for the rebuilding projects that were needed.

“The responsibility for this situation rests squarely on the government's shoulders and no amount of diversion and distraction will change that,” he said.