Sandra Chapman: ​​As autumn moves in the main issue is the state of our public buildings and crumbling concrete

Slowly, but surely, summer is leaving us. The signs aren’t always obvious but having kept an eye on a small outcrop of trees near my place for some weeks, I knew that brownish look around them wasn’t there two weeks back.
Park View School in London, which has been affected with sub standard Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).Park View School in London, which has been affected with sub standard Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).
Park View School in London, which has been affected with sub standard Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).

September is with us just a few days and already I’m thinking about the Christmas baking. Of course I should be thinking of serious things like the hundreds of schools and buildings in the UK at risk having been built with dodgy concrete. Now I just wonder was that the same stuff – it is known as RAAC – Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete – created in the 1950s around the time my old primary school was built?

Our school was in the depths of south Derry and cement falling off the walls was something we just got used to. And that was the early days. There is still a school there and whilst I’m not passing it very often I haven’t heard of anyone complaining about it so it must have had repairs or even a rebuild in later years.

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The biggest problem we had at the school was dodging the rain when we went out to the toilets, the only shelter being a rickety wooden roof, bits of which constantly fell off. I doubt even third world schools would be that bad these days.

What will be interesting will be the way the political parties handle the problem. Already they are tripping over themselves in the blame game despite the problem having been there when both Tories and Labour were in power at various times. It’s nice for a change to see both parties being blamed for one and the same thing. Parents are angry though – how on earth will they handle childcare if a closure affects them?

Maybe a new political movement should be formed – it could be called the RAAC Party, it’s primary aim to supervise the provision of new schools and buildings to replace the rickety ones. It’s political aim would be to see the end of crumbling concrete for any building, even a dog’s kennel, with government funds for those parents who have to give up work to stay at home and look after the children who don’t have a school to go to.

Staff in other public buildings built with RAAC will demand to be able to work-from-home and seek higher wages to pay their electricity and heating bills.

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Labour is already demanding ‘an urgent audit’ of the government’s handling of public sector buildings. I don’t suppose it occurs to them to look at how they handled public buildings when they were in power in recent years.

I’m not sure who was in power when I was a pupil in that small south Derry primary school where damp walls were common in winter and draughts left us with hands so cold we could scarcely write. Only one classroom had a pot-bellied stove. No one was allowed to sit near it except the teacher.

Times have moved on yet now we are being haunted by the past when your average school building was anything but safe. We have bickering politicians trying not to take the blame for past building habits. They are not to blame for the ‘crumbling concrete’ but when we send our children to old schools today we expect them to be safe.