Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to claims from the government that “responsible bodies” have not returned RAAC surveys to the Department for Education.
“We’ve now received six messages directly from trust and school leaders raising concerns about the accuracy of the Department for Education’s records and have heard similar reports from other sources.
“All tell us that they returned their RAAC surveys many months ago but on Monday night they received a letter from Education Minister Baroness Barran effectively threatening to name and shame them if they did not complete the survey by Friday 8 September. In two cases, the trusts which have contacted us have overseen a transfer of schools and have questioned whether the DfE’s systems may have not transferred previously completed RAAC surveys of these schools to the new trust and have therefore recorded the trust’s record as being incomplete.
“Education Secretary Gillian Keegan told the House of Commons on Monday that responsible bodies have submitted responses to the questionnaire on RAAC for 95% of schools with blocks built in the target period, and on Tuesday she told Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 that she was frustrated with ‘5% of schools or responsible bodies that have not responded to the survey’ and said she hoped ‘all this publicity will make them get off their backsides’.
“In light of what we are hearing, we would urge the Department for Education to review its systems to see whether at least some of these supposedly non-returned survey forms – and possibly a great many – were in fact returned but have not been recorded as such due to a technical error.
“We would also urge ministers to be very careful about pointing the finger of blame. Ms Keegan’s outbursts this week have not been helpful and have served only to further alienate a sector which already feels badly let down by the government’s appalling neglect of the school estate.
“The government has known about the risks posed by RAAC since at least 2018 and should have addressed this issue long ago rather than having to order the closure of school buildings at the last minute before a new term begins. It should certainly not be blaming schools for its failings.”