0345 GMT January 27, 2020
Almost 4,000 schools across the country have been judged by surveyors to be in need of immediate restoration work, and many more were found not to have the paperwork required by law, including electrical test certificates, fire risk assessments or asbestos management plans, the Guardian reported.
According to data gathered through a government program to assess the condition of England’s schools estate, 17 percent (3,731) were found to have buildings with “elements”, such as a roof, wall or window deemed in need of immediate replacement or repair.
Of the 21,796 schools for which information was released, 1,313 had elements that were given the worst possible condition grade D, defined as “life expired and/or serious risk of imminent failure.”
Seven hundred and five schools had more than two elements awarded a grade D, while 69 had more than 10.
The data, which was obtained though freedom of information (FOI) requests, were gathered through the Department for Education’s school condition data collection (CDC) program, launched in early 2017. As part of the scheme, surveyors visited every government-maintained school in England to collect data about the physical condition of school buildings and how they are managed.
Schools were also asked to fill in a survey before the surveyor’s visit to provide information about its buildings. According to FOI data, 2,939 schools — 14 percent of the 20,854 respondents — did not have an asbestos management plan; 2,717 (13 percent) did not have a fire risk assessment; 2,215 (11 percent) did not have a gas safety test report; and 2,098 (10 percent) did not have an electrical test certificate.
The Department for Education (DfE) said that in some cases the documentation could have been held off-site by the multiacademy trust managing the school. However, a spokesperson for the National Education Union (NEU) said such paperwork was pointless if it was not held within the building it related to for staff to refer to.
Critics said the findings pointed to a system in which overstretched school leaders were struggling to keep their buildings safe after years of budget cuts. Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the NEU, said the figures highlighted the effect of failure to invest in a crumbling educational infrastructure and that teachers, other staff and pupils deserved better.
He added, “It makes no sense for important practical documents, required by law, not to be held on the premises of a school or college. The reason the government gives — that they may be held by a multi-academy trust would be laughable if it weren’t so serious. If they are missing how can the risk be safely managed?”