THE decision to close the buildings at risk from reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) could not have been taken earlier, the schools minister has said.

Nick Gibb, minister of state schools, spoke after the Department for Education published new guidance on use of RAAC in schools.

The government department stated that without mitigations, affected buildings must not be used until surveys have taken place and suitable systems are installed.

The decision caused uproar from parents across the nation as were 156 educational buildings built with RAAC and only 56 of these had mitigations in place.

Mr Gibb said: “We took the decision as soon as the evidence emerged. We were proactively seeking that evidence, unlike any other governments around the world.

“We take this issue very seriously and as that evidence emerged, we discussed it with experts.

“We worked out what the consequences would be for schools.

“This happened in the summer. It could have happened in the coming November. It could have happened during term time.

“It just so happened that it happened over this summer.”

Schools using RAAC are at risk because the material is less dense than traditional concrete.

This means it is prone to collapse over time.

Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete is a lightweight form of concrete that was used in schools, colleges and other buildings from the 1950s until the mid-1990s.

Mr Gibb has also suggested that more schools could be affected once checks are complete.

He added: “The issue is any extensions or schools built in that period, and that’s where we’ve been focusing our surveys and evidence-gathering since 2022, so we know where RAAC is in the school estate.

“It’s in 156 schools. There may be more after that as these questionnaires continue to be surveyed and we continue to do more surveying work.”

Mr Gibb assured parents not to worry as more checks are completed.

He said: “We are now saying that we think those buildings or rooms should be taken out of use. That’s a very cautious approach, so parents can be confident that if they’ve not been contacted by their school it is safe to send children back into school.”