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More schools and buildings with unsafe concrete may come to light in the coming weeks, Chancellor admits

Workmen at Abbey Lane Primary School in Sheffield (PA)
Workmen at Abbey Lane Primary School in Sheffield (PA)

Jeremy Hunt has admitted more schools and public buildings with structural issues may come to light in the coming weeks.

More than 100 schools in England have been told to fully or partially close because they are fitted with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac), a concrete that could suddenly collapse.

On Thursday, the Department for Education said it had contacted 104 schools to advise them to close or partially close buildings after 52 of the 156 educational settings containing the concrete took protective steps so far this year.

There are further fears for the state of public buildings across the UK after chairwoman of Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee, Dame Meg Hillier, told The Times the state of some public buildings was “jaw-dropping”.

Speaking on Sunday, Mr Hunt told Sky News’ Trevor Phillips: “Obviously we might find new information in the weeks or months ahead.

“We will act on it. But in terms of the information that we have in front of us to date we have acted immediately. We will continue to act, we will continue to invest.”

He went further to say the remaining 104 schools the Government has contacted “are able to operate largely normally”.

“The Government will take action immediately when we know there is any kind of risk,” he said.

“As soon as problems have been identified we’ve started a huge survey of every single school in the country so we could identify where these problems are.

“And I think it’s very important to reassure parents that where there is an issue as soon as we find out about it we will act.”

Later on Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg, Mr Hunt said the Government will “spend what it takes to make sure children can go to school safely”.

Previously Education Secretary Gillian Keegan told parents the closure of classrooms due to fears over crumbling lightweight concrete is “not a return to the dark days of school lockdowns”.

Writing in The Sun on Sunday, the Education Secretary said there was “no choice” other than to make closures after a “handful of cases” where Raac had failed.

She said: “We all have to make difficult decisions in life and responsible government is about getting them right. That means looking at evidence and acting, even when the trade-offs are significant.

“That’s the position I faced when new evidence was presented to me indicating concrete which forms part of certain school buildings was no longer safe.

“I want to reassure families that this is not a return to the dark days of school lockdowns.”