James Cartlidge MP; Witnessing RAAC impact at West Suffolk hospital.
It remains my understanding that two schools in South Suffolk are currently affected by RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete): Hadleigh and East Bergholt High Schools. Parents, staff, and pupils at those schools should have now been notified directly. As to other schools in South Suffolk, it is my understanding that they will be aware that ‘if you haven't been told you have it, you don’t have it’.
Hadleigh & East Bergholt:
I totally understand that the timing on this situation could not be worse, with school now starting again. I must stress that this is due to a recent change in official advice, with collapses in structures previously thought to be safe, necessitating the temporary closure of spaces or buildings that are known to contain RAAC. This precautionary step will allow schools the time to put mitigations and extra safety measures in place.
I have had detailed discussions with my Ministerial colleague Baroness Barran at the Department for Education and with Suffolk County Council. Of course, East Bergholt and Hadleigh are part of the same academy trust, Penrose Learning Trust. I have also liaised extensively with the CEO of the Trust, and I am aiming to share the latest update from them later today on plans for the coming days in respect of both affected schools.
I have seen some coverage that other public buildings might be affected – including hospitals. I want to reassure my constituents that as far as I am aware, detailed work has been underway across the NHS estate for some time, to highlight, manage, and address issues related to RAAC. As recently as May, I visited West Suffolk Hospital – with my neighbouring MP, Jo Churchill – to inspect the RAAC concrete and remedial work that has taken place to manage it.
Indeed, it is precisely because West Suffolk has had well documented RAAC issues that I made it a priority at the last election to campaign for a complete rebuild of the hospital, and that has now been agreed. The Government recently confirmed that West Suffolk Hospital was a priority rebuild and would be fully funded – precisely because of RAAC.
As said, I will aim to provide further information as soon as I am able, in particular for parents, staff, and pupils at Hadleigh and East Bergholt; though of course those affected should receive direct updates and are advised to regularly check the schools’ websites. I expect the Secretary of State for Education to make a statement in the Commons later today (4th September), and you can find a letter below sent to me from the Secretary of State on Friday, with further detail.
I cannot stress enough how much I sympathise with those affected - not least with four children at local schools - but we have had a very recent change of advice and the primacy of the safety of our schools for all concerned must come first.