EDUCATION Secretary Gillian Keegan has pledged to set up a working party with Essex MPs after it was revealed the county has been “disproportionally” affected by potentially dangerous concrete in schools.

It is thought that more than a third of the schools at possible risk of collapse are in Essex.

At least 54 schools were affected and 30 schools were closed or partly closed across the county due to fears over the presence of reinforced autoclaved aeriated concrete (Raac).

The Government has yet to published a full list of those ordered not to reopen without taking safety measures because of the risk ceilings could collapse.

Saffron Walden Reporter: Education Secretary Gillian KeeganEducation Secretary Gillian Keegan (Image: PA)

Mrs Keegan said: “Almost half the cases are in Essex, it probably warrants setting up a working group with the Essex MPs, so that we can work through them in great detail.”

Harwich and North Essex MP Sir Bernard Jenkin said eight schools in his constituency have been identified schools with Raac issues and two others are under investigation, which he believes is more than in any other constituency.

He questioned the minister over whether capital funding would also be made available to rebuild Mistley Norman School, which had already closed its main building earlier this year due to concerns over Raac.

Witham MP Dame Priti Patel also questioned the minister over the support available to schools and pupils affected by the presence of Raac.

She said: “The safety of pupils, teachers and staff must always come first and the presence of Raac in schools in my constituency is a cause of concern.

“This is a very difficult and frustrating situation for the pupils, parents and schools affected and the decision taken so close to the start of term to close buildings will prevent some pupils having face-to-face teaching.”

Saffron Walden Reporter: Colchester's The Gilberd SchoolColchester's The Gilberd School (Image: Public)

Tony Ball, Essex County Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “54 schools are currently identified as having known Raac within Essex, requiring immediate action as a result of the change in Department of Education (DfE) policy made on Thursday 31 August 2023.

“Up until that date, for schools for which Essex County Council is the responsible body, we had been working with the DfE to manage Raac in these settings.

“We have been working over a number of years to understand the extent of Raac across the maintained school education estate and take action when it has been identified.

“Of the 54 schools on the list, 15 are local authority maintained schools. 14 of these schools are able to open next week due to mitigation measures having been put in place.

“Unfortunately, one maintained school will need to close temporarily due to the severity of the Raac across the school building.

“Parents have been communicated to around arrangements for the start of the school term.

“We are working tirelessly with the school to find an appropriate solution as quickly as possible.

“The remaining 39 schools are academies, for which the academy trust is the responsible body.

“We have been working closely with academy trusts and the DfE to understand the impact and provide support where necessary.”

“The council has always been diligent in ensuring that we have surveyed schools and ensured that when RAAC issues have been identified we have taken necessary action.

“We are confident that there are no additional maintained schools that have RAAC.

“In light of changing guidance and the latest information, like many other Local Authorities we will be reviewing our data and undertaking further surveys if necessary to ensure all RAAC is identified and then addressed.

“We expect academy trusts will do the same.

“I would like to acknowledge that for pupils, parents, school staff and education colleagues at the council this isn’t the start to the Autumn term you expected or will have wanted.

“I can reassure you that across the council We are doing all we can to support schools to manage the situation and get affected children safely into schools and learning as quickly as possible.”