Tory Schools Minister in car crash interview over building safety concerns

'It's an absolute shambles. As usual schools, and our kids, are left high and dry.'

Minister for Schools, Nick Gibb, has appeared in a car crash interview attempting to address how more than 100 schools in England were told to close classrooms and buildings immediately over safety fears, affecting thousands of pupils.

This has come just days before schools were due to reopen next week, sparking criticism of minister failings, with the NEU teachers’ union calling it ‘sheer gross government incompetence’ and Unison saying it was, ‘nothing short of a scandal’.

MP Nick Gibbs appearing on Good Morning Britain today to address the shambolic situation in what viewers have called a ‘car crash’ interview, in which he seems to fail to remember the context of his previous comments on the issue, played to him live on air.

Gibbs was shown a clip of himself speaking in Parliament on May 23, in which he exclaimed his “commitment” that the government would “publish as soon as possible and certainly before the summer recess” information concerning school building safety.

To which the presenter stated: “And that hasn’t happened, has it?”

Gibb responded: “Well we will publish.. look this issue is new it emerged over the summer..”

When the ITV presenter interrupted to push further on why he made this commitment to publish the information before the recess, and why this hadn’t happened.

“That was about something else,” claimed Gibbs. “Because this is only an issue that has emerged over the summer, so over the summer, there were some incidences’ where RAAC that we had thought was safe, is no longer so. So we took a decision over the summer, it’s a very big decision to take..”

Gibb was again cut off by the ITV presenter, who reminded the minister that a previous report on the condition of schools included comments on RAAC, and pressed the minister on whether he was implying these were incorrect.

Unfortunately, Gibb’s was unable to remember what “that particular thing was about”.

To which the presenter interjected: “It was about RAAC minister! It’s what you said, I’m not putting words in your mouth.”

Gibbs concluded: “Look, we will publish the names of all the schools involved, what we do want to happen though is we want parents to hear from the school’s first.”

When the presenter reminded him that he had already failed to do that.

Unsafe reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) has been found prone to collapse and is the reason schools have been closed last minute. Back in June the National Audit Office released a report that concluded the condition of schools was declining and that the risk of injury or death from the collapse of a school building was “very likely and critical”.

One teacher on X wrote: “It’s clear the Department of Education and Nick Gibb knew about this before the Summer. So why have they waited until the day most schools go back before telling them? It’s an absolute shambles. As usual schools, and our kids, are left high and dry.”

“We need a list of affected schools without any further delay,” Baroness Taylor of Stevenage wrote.

“HCC have told us RAAC only in 3 Herts schools so far but that doesn’t include Academy schools who are responsible for their own assessments & mitigation. A mess caused by Tory ministers sitting on their hands!”

Between 2009-10 to 2021-22, capital spending declined by around 37% in cash terms and 50% in real terms, according to the Commons Library Research Briefing.

Schools have been told that the government will only provide funding for works that are “capital funded” and schools will have to pay rental costs themselves for emergency or temporary accommodation.

(Image credit: Good Morning Britain / Screenshot)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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