Skip to content
Strategic planning

NGA comments DfE guidance on RAAC


Sam Henson, NGA's Director of Policy and Communications, comments on updated guidance from the Department for Education advising schools "to vacate and restrict access to spaces with confirmed reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC)";

Almost 4 in 10 respondents to NGA's 2023 annual governance survey told us their buildings were not in good condition, so it has become clear that this isn't just an issue about those outlier schools told to close but a much bigger emergency that means children and staff across the country are learning and working in substandard conditions.

We empathise deeply with the families, children, and staff affected by the complete and partial closures. Although we acknowledge that safety is paramount, the timing leads to notable challenges for those returning to school at the start of the new academic year.

The urgent issues related to RAAC further intensify the already high-pressure workload and responsibility of governors and trustees who would have been aware of such concerns. They are also dealing with important multiple priorities, including diminishing budgets, poor attendance and rising needs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While we understand new evidence coming to light over the summer led to a change to the DfE’s assessment of the risk in schools, NGA, leaders and families are waiting to hear what exactly that was.

Assurances are needed for governing boards who do not fall within the 104 schools newly identified that the new risk assessment does not bring their schools into this danger zone.“

To share your views and comments, please email NGA members can contact the Gold Advice team.

Whilst meeting their responsibilities, governing boards should ensure that they remain strategic.

For maintained schools, as the governing board will have responsibility for premises management, they should seek assurances that their senior leaders are aware of any potential risks from RAAC and are addressing these, providing strategic support where necessary. Governors of voluntary aided and foundation schools are also legal employers and so should ensure that their health and safety responsibilities towards staff are being met.

For those governing academy trusts, trustees are expected to maintain their estate in a safe working condition. Again, their role should remain strategic and so they should seek assurances from their senior leaders and support where required. As the legal employer, the trust board should ensure that their health and safety responsibilities towards staff are being met.

Local authorities (LAs) should support maintained schools in their area, especially for buildings where they are the legal owners (community, voluntary-controlled schools and maintained nurseries).

As NGA members will be aware, the DfE has published guidance on what to do if RAAC is found in your setting. For those schools that have not done so already, governors and trustees should ensure that the DfE’s questionnaire is completed as soon as possible so that any RAAC can be identified and managed, including the appointment of an appropriately qualified building surveyor or structural engineer and informing the DfE.

Our webinar, Safe Schools, Sound Futures: Estate Management for Governing Boards, explores the governing board’s responsibilities in relation to school and trust estates.

Update 21 September 2023:

NGA responds to the government's progress in addressing the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) emergency following the DfE's updated list, which now includes 27 additional schools with confirmed presence of the material on site.

Sam Henson, NGA's Director of Policy and Communications, comments

"NGA first wants to acknowledge and applaud the efforts and resilience of schools and trusts tackling RAAC challenges since the start of term. We have witnessed unwavering leadership and dedication from leaders, governors, trustees, and staff during a time when the pressure to minimise disruptions was mounting rapidly in order to ensure uninterrupted and safe learning environments for the children and young people affected by impacted schools.

More schools are being formally identified as having RAAC on site, so it is clearer that the full extent of the issue has yet to be discovered. NGA again reinforces this isn't just about those outlier schools told to close or who need urgent action, but a much bigger story of thousands of children and staff across the country learning and working in substandard conditions, which, in some cases, pose a threat to their health and safety.

The Department for Education's support through project delivery teams is both welcome and essential, and NGA has very much embraced the opportunity to work with the department in adding members views and voices and relaying their key concerns.

However, current measures are primarily reactive, lacking a proactive strategy addressing other critical issues in relation to the sustainability and health of school estates. We would once again urge the government to prioritise giving all children and young people access to safe, healthy learning environments, addressing the chronic underfunding of school infrastructure."

Related content