Four Kent schools forced to close due to safety concerns | #schoolsaftey

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Kent County Council has closed four schools in Kent following new guidelines

  • Author, Alex Bish & Flaminia Luck
  • Role, BBC news

Four schools in Kent have been forced to close temporarily following safety concerns.

Kent County Council (KCC) said they had to shut them after being “unexpectedly informed” of new guidelines by the Department of Education (DfE) regarding concrete in the buildings.

KCC said they appreciate these closures will be “extremely disruptive” for pupils, staff, parents and carers.

A DfE spokesperson said the safety of pupils and staff is “paramount”.

The schools which have closed are:

  • Birchington Church of England Primary School
  • Sunny Bank Primary School, Murston, Sittingbourne
  • Palmarsh Primary School, Hythe
  • St James Church of England Primary School, Tunbridge Wells

KCC said it expects some of the affected schools to reopen on Wednesday 21 June.

A number of schools in other counties have also been affected, KCC added.

Speaking to BBC Radio Kent, Cllr Rory Love, cabinet member for education at KCC, said that the department adopted new standards and new guidelines for the size of the bearings for the ceilings where the roof fits to the walls.

“We acted immediately on those schools that no longer complied,” he said, adding that there was “no indication that there were any concerns about the actual structure” of the buildings.

“This is about about complying with the new standards so we can guarantee that safety in the long term,” he added.

A KCC spokesperson said safety is always their priority and that they are “working closely” with the schools affected.

“This week, local education authorities across the country were unexpectedly informed by the Department for Education (DfE) that they have adopted new guidelines from the Institution of Structural Engineers, which have resulted in revised evaluation criteria for schools across the UK, regarding structural detailing of roofs and RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete).”

KCC said this “necessitated the immediate closure of a small number of schools in Kent” while work takes place to “make them compliant with the new standards”.

The spokesperson added: “KCC is working closely with the schools affected, some of which are academies or voluntary aided and operate independently of KCC.

“This is to ensure that, wherever possible, we can provide temporary accommodation, to ensure that there is as little disruption as possible to the education of the children and young people affected.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “Where it is suspected that RAAC is present in a school, we take action based on professional advice.”

“We are in regular contact with the schools and the responsible bodies including Kent County Council and are working closely with them to minimise the impact of closures and ensure continuity of education for pupils.”

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