CROYDON IN CRISIS: Council’s Tory leadership accused of ‘deceiving’ parents with statement issued last week on the state of the borough’s schools.
EXCLUSIVE by STEVEN DOWNES
Despite assurances issued by the council, at least two Croydon schools will not be opening for the start of the academic year this week because of concerns that cheap and crumbling RAAC was used in the construction of their buildings.
As the national row over the under-funding of the schools building programme gathers pace, with the conceited and foul-mouthed Education Secretary Gillian Keegan landing her boss, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, in the mess over his budgets when Chancellor, today the Department for Education made itself a laughing stock by issuing a social media meme with the less-than-reassuring message about reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete: “Most schools unaffected”.
In Croydon, the Tory-run council’s propaganda department is now being accused of deliberately misleading parents, carers, teachers and school staff by issuing a statement on Friday that said, “All Croydon’s local authority maintained schools have been surveyed as required and will be open as normal at the start of the autumn term.”
What the council failed to mention was that, of Croydon’s 90 schools, primaries and secondary, fewer than 20 remain under local authority control, the “maintained schools” mentioned in the official statement. “The council statement was even less than half true,” a Katharine Street source said.
Following decades of effective privatisation of the nation’s education system, the vast majority of Croydon’s schools have been academised, and so fall outside the council’s direct control.
Many of these schools are using buildings that were constructed between the 1950s and 1980s, when RAAC was a commonly used construction material, but one which, it is now known, is prone to crumble and collapse after decades of use.
It means that the senior staff at more than 70 Croydon academised schools are probably now frantically seeking to check their plans and records, either to comply with the DfE’s belatedly implemented survey of the nation’s schools building stock, or to double-check that the dread acronym RAAC is not going to ruin their start-of-term schedule.
Inside Croydon has discovered that Beckmead Park Academy, a special needs school on Monks Orchard Road, yesterday contacted parents to advise that there may be RAAC on their sites and that they need a DfE safety inspection before the school can begin the new term.
Beckmead Park is an all-through mixed SEN school, with places for around 127 pupils.
A letter from Dean Monfries, the head, said, “We have been notified by the DfE that there is a risk that our sites may indeed contain RAAC and will have to undergo a safety inspection this week before being able to open the school.
“We will notify you as soon as we have the results of this inspection.
“We appreciate the concern that this may raise, and we will always prioritise the safety of your children and our staff.
“Any contingency plans will prioritise the continuation of education and ensure that, if RAAC is identified, any impact on pupils is kept to an absolute minimum.”
But as one concerned parent told iC, “Many of the kids at this school are autistic. For them, routine and knowing what they are doing can be critical. Last-minute change can be very unsettling.”
Sources at the council confirm that at least one other school, as yet unidentified, has also been put on a “watch list” for RAAC and will not be re-opening until the matter is resolved.
The delays in the DfE managing to identify the RAAC risk schools, and Croydon Council’s disingenuous statement last week, only serve to demonstrate how badly fractured what is supposed to be a state education system has become under the academy policies of the Blairites and Tories.
But one opposition source today hit out at Croydon’s Conservative Mayor, Jason Perry, for deliberately misleading the borough’s parents and carers.
“The statement issued on Friday was not given to councillors first, but withheld until issued to the press. And even then, they took most of a day to draft it and clear it.
“The council statement was deliberately and carefully worded to deceive Croydon families into thinking that our schools are safe and free of RAAC, when in fact they were only referring to fewer than 20 schools.
“When dealing with the safety of our children, teachers and school staff, that’s just not good enough.”
The Tories have doubled down on their deception today, with one Conservative councillor, Ian Parker, tweeting at Labour opposition councillors, “Mayor Perry and Cllr Gatland [the cabinet member responsible for schools] came out as fast as humanly possible to reassure parents and students.
“Stop playing politics and claiming credit where it’s not due.”
Unintentionally, Parker managed to echo Government Minister Keegan’s claim that she’s “doing a fucking great job”. Very few people now would say that piss-poor Mayor Perry is doing any sort of job at all…
Inside Croydon approached Croydon Council, offering it an opportunity to come clean about the true extent of use of RAAC in all Croydon state schools – academies and others.
We have received no response.
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