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Column: It’s hard to think of a better metaphor for modern Britain than crumbling school buildings

Guest columnist Steve N Allen is a comedian and writer. (Photo: Submitted)
Guest columnist Steve N Allen is a comedian and writer. (Photo: Submitted)

​The current scandal is about some schools closing because they’re made of bubbly concrete.

It’s technically called reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, known as RAAC, and it seems that making a concrete building a bit more like Swiss cheese isn’t great.

It’s said this type of concrete has a life span of 30 years. It shows the short-termism we have become used to.

The Romans made things out of concrete that are still standing today but we thought we’d save some money by making some building last not as long as the TV show EastEnders has been running.

The real winner in this debacle is Nestlé. They make the chocolate bar Aero, which has been mentioned more in news stories over the last week than it has in years.

It’s used as an analogy for the bubble-filled concrete. You have to feel sorry for Maltesers. Their

honeycomb centre is more like the RAAC structure but they never get a mention.

'Some schools have had to be closed while work is done to reinforce the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, presumably making it RRAAC', says columnist Steve N Allen (Photo: Submitted)
'Some schools have had to be closed while work is done to reinforce the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, presumably making it RRAAC', says columnist Steve N Allen (Photo: Submitted)

I read one article that said some RAAC can be made of 70 percent air. At that point, it’s not

bubbly concrete, it’s slightly concretey air.

If you have to make temporary building that might collapse, and I still think it’s a bad idea, surely you wouldn’t use this as a building where you put children. That’s what they did.

Some schools have to be closed while work is done to reinforce the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete, presumably making it RRAAC.

I suppose a good teacher can make any event a learning moment. You can learn how a class two lever works while you’re using a bar to lift a lump of wall off your school bag.

By saving a small amount of money in the first place we have found ourselves facing a huge bill just when we’re already facing economic problems.

We could have acted before. Concerns were first raises in the 1960s when it was being

used but by the 1980s potential safety issues of ageing RAAC were known. By the early

2000s a report highlighted the problem.

A questionnaire was sent to schools in 2021 to see if they had RAAC in their buildings and

yet it was days before the schools were set to reopen in September 2023 that something

was finally done.

Never again will a school be able to say you shouldn’t leave your maths homework till the

night before it’s due.