Most of us had probably never heard of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, or Raac.
It’s said to be bubbled with holes, rather like an Aero bar. But to mix the chocolate metaphors, only the crumbliest, flakiest concrete was good enough for building schools in a hurry.
They were mostly put up between the 1960s to the 1980s, with a shockingly short projected lifespan of around 30 years. Here’s your brand spanking new school; do look up at the lovely flat roof – just don’t stand there in a few years.
Governments often end up with the scandals they deserve. Crumbling schools being in danger of falling down is a perfect fit for the present austerity-addicted lot.
Things tends to collapse after the Tories have been in power for too long. Although, to be fair, some things grow – NHS waiting lists; tax breaks for bankers; litanies of pathetic excuses.
Ministerial shuffle-bottom games flourish, too. Three prime ministers in one year; five jobs for Grant Shapps in one year.
Seeing as we’re talking about schools, there have also been ten education secretaries since 2010. Ten, count them all. It almost amounts to a maths lesson.
This lot care about education so much, they put someone new in charge every few months. And they care so much they gave the job to Gavin Williamson – and then went and knighted the useless man.
Gillian Keegan has held the brief since last October, much longer than her predecessor, Kit Malthouse, who lasted the few weeks it took Liz Truss to dissolve into a pool of bitter self-justification, telling everyone she was right as she sank.
Keegan was doing the interview rounds yesterday, twisting away from blame in a typical game of dodgy dodgems.
After swerving and condescending on BBC Radio 4 Today programme, she later gave an interview to ITV, after which she was caught complaining when the cameras continued rolling.
Charmingly, she asked: “Does anyone ever say: ‘You know what, you’ve done a fucking good job, because everyone else has sat on their arse and done nothing.’ No signs of that, no?”
At least Keegan later apologised. No such luck with the prime minister. Rishi Sunak went off on one of his prissy sulks when it was suggested that, as Chancellor, he’d slashed the budget for repairs to school buildings.
Jonathan Slater, the DfE’s top civil servant from 2016 to 2020, told the BBC that a request to replace up to 400 schools was slashed to 100 by Sunak, and then reduced to 50 the following year.
Don’t know about you, but I know who I’d prefer to believe.
It’s not as if the problems with aerated concrete weren’t known about. A roof collapsed at a primary school in Kent as far back as 2018. Now, just as term starts, the government tells 100 affected schools that they can’t open until tests have been carried out.
Some children are being taught remotely for up to a term, raising lockdown worries all over again.
Oh, and it’s not just schools, as “24 hospitals, seven court buildings and four government buildings [are] affected”, according to the Observer.
Still, if you want dilapidated, go on and vote Tory again. It’s amazing the daft things people do when an election heaves into view.
As for Keir Starmer’s reshuffled Labour, well, Sir Keir needs to show that he is willing to spend and invest, and raise taxes, rather than wandering around in the Tories’ shadows, muttering “mustn’t do that, can’t to that…”
YOU’D have thought schools falling down was quite the scandal. But it wasn’t on the front of yesterday’s Mail.
Instead, the paper led with what it called a “dramatic ten-fold rise” in the number of council employees given permission to work from overseas. Approvals have apparently risen from 73 in the year 2020 to 2021, to more than 700 last year.
Well, knock me down with an over-heated and sandy laptop. That’s a nonsense story of little importance. Seven hundred is still hardly any.
Oh, and look here – it says the story was based on Freedom of Information requests “submitted to local authorities by the thinktank the Taxpayers’ Alliance”.
Oh, that lot again – an obscurely funded right-wing think tank obsessed with how our money is spent, although weirdly unconcerned about all those billions lost to fraud.
AND you’d have thought that Iain Duncan Smith would learn to shut up just the once.
Sir Iain told the Mail – sorry, that lot again – that he backed “blade runner” vandals in his east London constituency who destroy roadside cameras because they were “lied to” over the ultra-low emissions zone in London.
So, if you don’t like a rule, you’re free to break the law. Not sure the hopeless former Tory leader thought that one through but then thinking too hard has never been his speciality.
Plenty of us were “lied to” over Brexit; Boris Johnson when in office lied to everyone, every day. And Rishi Sunak has now grabbed the fibber’s baton.
Although, strike that last line. It sounds ruder than intended. That man’s baton is best left well alone.