The Government’s announcement last Thursday that more than 100 schools across the country with Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (Raac) would have to close some of their buildings couldn’t have come at a worse time for heads, teaching staff and pupils.

It’s very disappointing and frustrating that the Government should make such a major announcement, with all its implications and ramifications for our educational settings nationwide, a mere matter of days before the start of the 2023-24 academic year.

It shows a callous disregard for all the effort and hard work that goes into planning and organising learning and teaching in schools. Criticising the “absolutely disgraceful” timing, the National Education Union has called it “a sign of gross incompetence” and I couldn’t agree more with that damning assessment.

Thankfully though, we have been proactive and completely on the front foot in dealing with this issue at Haringey Council.

Ham & High: Cllr Zena Brabazon says Haringey Council sent RAAC questionnaires back to the DfE in FebruraryCllr Zena Brabazon says Haringey Council sent RAAC questionnaires back to the DfE in Februrary (Image: ©David Mirzoeff 2021. All rights reserved.)

When we – like all other local authorities – were asked by the Department for Education (DfE) to inspect our school buildings for Raac earlier this year, we didn’t drag our feet or bury our heads in the sand. We immediately got on with the task at hand and carried out surveys back in February.

We have been working closely with the senior leadership teams at our three affected schools – Hornsey School for Girls, Park View and Welbourne Primary – to minimise any prospective disruption to their pupils’ on-site learning.

As cabinet member for children, schools and families, I’ve signed off millions of pounds’ worth of capital funding to ensure students in Haringey can attend school.

Thirteen demountable classrooms have been installed at Park View while works to deal with the Raac take place, whereas there is sufficient space at both Hornsey and Welbourne to relocate their pupils.

I’m pleased to report that none of our affected schools will be closing as a result of the Government’s announcement, and they can rely on our continued support as we look to rectify this issue swiftly and successfully in the future.

With our children and young people returning to school this week, I’d like to remind and encourage our eligible Haringey parents to continue to apply for Free School Meals (FSMs).

We’re acutely aware that following the Mayor of London’s pledge to fund FSMs for every primary schoolchild in this new academic year, parents may not necessarily feel the need to apply for them.

But, this funding is crucial – for every eligible primary schoolchild, their school receives an additional £1,455 in Pupil Premium funding – and we are urging you to continue to apply for your child’s FSMs.

  • Cllr Zena Brabazon is cabinet member for children, schools and families at Haringey Council.