RAAC and ruins: Link school discovers dangerous concrete

Another local special school is shut down over concerns about ‘crumbling’ concrete used in its buildings. By GENE BRODIE, education correspondent

Late start: Link Secondary, on Croydon Road in Sutton, is closed at least until next week

The Link Secondary School on Croydon Road is the latest to be affected by concerns over RAAC, the lightweight construction material that has forced the closure of more than 100 schools across the country.

Inside Croydon yesterday revealed exclusively that Beckmead Park Academy, a special needs school on Monks Orchard Road, had contacted parents and carers to advise that there may be RAAC on their sites and that they need a DfE safety inspection before the school can begin its new term.

The closure of the Link school and Beckmead Park because of the potential risk of dangerously weakened structures collapsing around pupils and staff comes despite a statement from Croydon Council last week that claimed that there were no issues with RAAC – reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete – at any of the borough’s maintained schools.

Fewer than 20 of Croydon’s 90 schools are “maintained”, and in local authority control, while the majority, such as Beckmead, have been academised.

Link Secondary is part of Orchard Hill College and Academy Trust that educates up to 148 pupils aged from four to 18 across three “small and friendly” sites – primary, secondary and sixth form.

The Orchard Hill Trust also runs a number of other schools, including Addington Valley Academy in Croydon, though there has been no reports of any of those being affected by RAAC closures.

Situated just on the Sutton side of the Croydon borough boundary, the Link schools specialise in providing education for children who have speech, language and communication difficulties and, they say, provide “placements for students from a wide range of local authorities”. That usually includes several from Croydon families.

Link has been closed after RAAC was found in the school hall. There are hopes that the secondary site will be able to open from next Monday, September 11, a week late.

Inside Croydon approached Orchard Hill Trust, but no response had been received by the time of publication.

Nationally, the rumbling RAAC row today saw reports that the Tories’ then Education Secretary, Michael Gove, axed plans for rebuilding works at 13 of the schools which have been forced to close this week due to concerns over dangerously degraded concrete.

And the Daily Mirror has discovered that £1million from the schools building fund had been paid to an IT company which employs Michael Keegan, the husband of the current Education Secretary, Gillian “Fucking good job” Keegan.

In Croydon, meanwhile, the Tory-run council’s propaganda department has been 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 council statement was even less than half true,” a Katharine Street source told Inside Croydon.

Rattled: Education Secretary Gillian Keegan

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 is understood that in addition to Beckmead, at least one other school in Croydon has had to implement contingencies for closure or part-closure and remote studying while the situation over the possible use of RAAC in its buildings is resolved.

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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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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3 Responses to RAAC and ruins: Link school discovers dangerous concrete

  1. derek thrower says:

    The buck stops with the Department of Education. The confusion and uncertainty is a direct result of the outsourcing of provision from a local education authority to a ad hoc centrally maintained system of education provision. Blaming the council for the flaws of this policy is a case of beating the wind with hot air.
    Well done on monitoring this situation and demonstrating the great uncertainty being caused by this failure of Government policy and deleterious effects on some of the most vulnerable amongst us in our society.

  2. Ian Kierans says:

    Gillian Keegan has actually done her job. Her department has identified the problem and brought it into the public realm. So no matter ones politic’s, that person and depertment are doing their job and continue to bang the drum to get the issues sorted. That is what I would expect from any elected person no matter what party they are in. tThat does not mean reviously the Department and/or Minister got it wrong.

    It may be that the 2010 Government are culpable – the Lib Dems got slaughtered over breaking a pledge and allowing the Conservatives a freebie on education.

    What has not been done in many areas including Croydon is perhaps due diligence on maintenance once again.

    Perry stating what he did is appaling disregard to the impacts of these closure.

    So 20% of schools are mantained by the Council. But they have delegated responsibility for 100% of education provision no matter who is actually delivering that .
    More to the point they still own most if not all the buildings and dependent on leasehold terms may be liable for this building maintenance repair. Which if they have no money may be delayed.

    Irrespective – they have a duty to ensure that when they delegate provision to a business that the business has sound delivery systems in place, effective risk management and back up systems in place to minimise closures and the loss of education days.

    That is not Dich – otomy – that is a part of standard business practice whose factors may be dynamic and factional but are not opposed – , do not have differing or hidden agendas but work to a common goal. – In this case – our Childrens education

    If someone also wants to get into the semantic’s of RAAC and if its really concrete (it is not) I do not mind it is all about blowing air anyway.

    But frankly I am more bothered that so many children are not going to get days of education once again, especially those most vulnerable.
    I am also bothered that once again we have a very cavalier response from a Mayor.

    Once again Perry. appears to have not a clue about what to do to resolve that issue except to intimate that it’s not his problem?

    Here is the FOI response from The Department of Education last year on who owns school land and buildings. Fun fact -no surprise – mostly the Council! So plase Mr Perry do respond as to who pays the bill for removal and repairs? I do hope this was covered when you and other coucillors transferred those leases.?

    Thank you for your email that was received on 27 April 2022.
    You asked the following:
    “Dear Department for Education, 1. When a school becomes an academy, who
    then owns the land and buildings? 2. If an academy school closes e.g. due
    to lack of students or because it is failing, what then happens to the
    land and buildings? Yours faithfully”.
    On your first query, the ownership of the land and buildings for an
    academy will depend on the previous history and characteristics of the
    school in question. How the school was originally established and any
    changes to the school since then will need to be considered. However, as a
    general principle:

    • If prior to becoming an academy, the school was a community school the
    local authority will usually hold the freehold and will continue to do
    so after the school becomes an academy.

    FOI response below

    • If the school was previously a foundation school, then there may be
    different arrangements depending on what type of foundation school it

    ◦ If the school did not have a separate charitable foundation, then the
    governing body will tend to own the land and buildings, and these will
    transfer to the academy trust upon conversion.
    ◦ Alternatively, if the school did have a charitable foundation, then
    the foundation will be holding the land prior to conversion. If the
    foundation was a new style foundation (especially if established since
    2006) which was set up simply to hold public land for the school, then
    on conversion the land will generally transfer on conversion from the
    foundation to the academy trust. However, if the foundation has older
    origins, and in particular if it was set up with wider charitable
    purposes or to hold land of private charitable origin gifted to our
    purchases for the school, then the foundation will continue after
    conversion, and will continue to hold the land for the academy.
    ◦ If the school was previously a voluntary aided or voluntary controlled
    school, then the playing field land will usually be held by the local
    authority and the main school site by a charitable foundation. After
    the conversion the local authority will continue to lease the playing
    field land to the academy and the charitable foundation will continue
    to hold the main school site and make this available to the academy.

    You can find further information at:

    In regards to your second question, this again depends on the origin and
    nature of the land. Any land which originated from the public purse – that
    is it was originally provided by the local authority or by the Secretary
    of State – is subject to statutory protections in Schedule 1 to the
    Academies Act 2010 which covers what happens to that land should it no
    longer be needed for the purposes of an academy:

    • If such land is still held by the local authority, then it may not be
    disposed of or used for another purpose without Secretary of State
    consent, when a disposal is proposed, the Secretary of State may
    refuse consent for the disposal and has powers to transfer the land to
    another academy to keep it in educational use. Alternatively he can
    give consent to the disposal with certain conditions attached – such
    as how any proceeds of sale may be spent.
    • If such land is held by another party, such as the academy trust or a
    charitable foundation then if the school ceases to be an academy the
    Secretary of State may direct that: the land returns to the local
    authority; that the person holding the land may dispose of the land
    but must pay the relevant local authority the whole or part of any
    value in the land; that the land transfers to be used for another
    academy; or that the land be transferred to be used for any other type
    of school.

    Doing this ensures the public interest and the ability to ensure land
    remains in educational use continues to be protected.

    However, if the land has private charitable origin, then the party holding
    the land (the charitable foundation) would control what happens to it in
    future. This would also be governed by the rules of charity law and the
    nature of the original charitable trust document under which the land is
    held but may for example allow the trust to use the land for wider
    charitable purposes.


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