RAAC and school disruption: FAQs

Get answers to FAQs on the current concerns about reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in school buildings and what the situation means for your school. See our template letters to explain the situation to parents/carers.

updated on 8 February 2024
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Contents
  1. What's my board's role?
  2. How do I find out whether my school buildings contain RAAC?
  3. What should my board do if we think our buildings contain RAAC?
  4. Will my school, or part of my school, need to close?
  5. If it does, where should school take place instead?
  6. What if there isn’t space for all pupils to continue learning face-to-face?
  7. How will this impact safeguarding?
  8. Where will the funding come from?
  9. How will pupils who can’t attend school receive school meals?
  10. Will Ofsted still inspect my school?
  11. What if pupils are due to take exams and assessments?
  12. What should we tell pupils, parents and carers? 

This article is based on the Department for Education (DfE)'s guidance for schools on reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). We understand that this is a developing situation and plan to update this article as and when we have more information – select 'save for later' at the top of the page to receive a notification when we do. 

Please note: the DfE's assessment survey programme is only available to state-funded settings in England. However, the guidance linked above and these FAQs should be helpful to all other settings too.

What's my board's role?

It depends on whether you're the 'responsible body', which is defined by your school type:

  • Academies and free schools: the trust board is the responsible body
  • Voluntary aided schools and foundation schools: the governing board is the responsible body 
    • Please note: the DfE guidance implies that the local authority (LA) is the 'responsible body' for a foundation school, but we believe this is an error. We have contacted the DfE for clarification
  • Community schools, voluntary-controlled schools and maintained nursery schools: your LA is the responsible body

It's the responsibility of the 'responsible body' to make sure RAAC is identified and reported. In practice, if you're a responsible body, you won't complete and submit the DfE's RAAC questionnaire yourselves, as operational leaders such as CEOs or headteachers will be able to do this on your behalf through the DfE's capital portal. You should, however, make sure that this has been done.

In addition, trust boards, foundation and voluntary aided school boards also hold responsibility for health and safety in their schools (as the employer). These boards need to assure themselves that any potential risks from RAAC are being addressed.

If your school or trust is affected, your board may need to monitor the effect of disruption

This includes:

  • The effectiveness of arrangements for continuing education provision
  • The effect of any necessary spending on your budget (see the funding section below)
  • Safeguarding provision where pupils are being educated elsewhere or at home (see the section on safeguarding below)
  • Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) provision (see the section below)

How do I find out whether my school buildings contain RAAC?

Your school may already have identified that 1 or more of its buildings contains RAAC and completed the questionnaire at the DfE's request in the last few years. If so, the DfE will already be aware, and will contact your school directly and allocate a caseworker to your school to advise on the next steps.

If your school hasn't yet assessed whether its building may contain RAAC, and the DfE isn’t aware, your leaders should refer to pages 10 to 14 of the DfE’s guidance on identifying RAAC for more details on what it looks like.  

What should my board do if we think our buildings contain RAAC?

This will depend on whether your board is the 'responsible body' (see the first question, "What's my board's role?" to determine this):

My board is the responsible body

You are responsible for identifying and reporting RAAC in your school(s). Work with your headteacher(s) and/or CEO to do this.

If you are an academy trust with a religious character or a voluntary-aided school, you should also liaise with the land/site trustees responsible for your buildings and the relevant religious body (usually your diocese).

Make sure your school leader(s) and/or estate management team(s) have carried out thorough inspections following the latest DfE guidance on identifying RAAC. This includes checking for RAAC 'hidden' behind ceiling panels or plasterboard.

If there's any suspicion that school buildings contain RAAC, or if there's any uncertainty, you should appoint an appropriately qualified building surveyor or structural engineer with experience of RAAC. See page 15 of the identification guide (linked above) for more detail. 

While waiting for confirmation, leaders should make a contingency plan in case the presence of RAAC is confirmed.  

What if RAAC is confirmed?

If the surveyor or engineer suspects or confirms that RAAC is present in your school: 

  • You should inform the DfE immediately via the capital portal
    • Your CEO or headteacher will do this on your behalf
  • It's important not to drill into, cut or disturb anything they think might be RAAC 

If you have any concerns or issues with this process, you can also contact the DfE directly using the email [email protected].

What happens next? 

The DfE will add your school(s) to its survey programme for state-funded schools. 

Prior to any further investigation, you are required to: 

  • Gather and supply relevant information about your school building(s) – see appendix B of the identification guidance  
  • List all spaces where additional measures will be required so that the DfE’s surveyors will be able to see the surfaces clearly – see appendix C 

Seek advice from a building professional if you need help supplying this information. Again, your headteacher or CEO is best placed to do this on your behalf.

My board is not the responsible body

Your school leaders should speak to the 'responsible body' for your school:

  • Your LA (community schools, voluntary-controlled schools and maintained nursery schools)
  • Your trust board (academies and free schools)

It's their responsibility to make sure that RAAC is identified and reported. If you're a voluntary-controlled school, your LA should also liaise with with the land/site trustees responsible for your buildings and the relevant religious body (usually your diocese).

Your headteacher can help the responsible body by making sure a thorough inspection following the latest DfE guidance on identifying RAAC is carried out. This includes checking for RAAC 'hidden' behind ceiling panels or plasterboard. 

If your headteacher or estate team finds anything that they suspect is RAAC, the DfE guidance recommends your school's responsible body appoints an appropriately qualified building surveyor or structural engineer with experience of RAAC. See page 15 of the identification guide (linked above) for more detail.

While waiting for confirmation, leaders should make a contingency plan in case the presence of RAAC is confirmed.  

What if RAAC is confirmed?

If the surveyor or engineer suspects or confirms that RAAC is present in your school: 

  • Your school's responsible body should inform the DfE immediately via the capital portal
  • It's important not to drill into, cut or disturb anything they think might be RAAC 

If you have any concerns or issues with this process, or you aren't able to confirm whether your responsible body has completed a questionnaire for your school, you can also contact the DfE directly using the email [email protected]

What happens next? 

The DfE will add your school to its survey programme for state-funded schools. 

Prior to any further investigation, the DfE requires your responsible body to: 

  • Gather and supply relevant information about your school building(s) – see appendix B of the identification guidance  
  • List all spaces where additional measures will be required so that the DfE’s surveyors will be able to see the surfaces clearly – see appendix C 

Will my school, or part of my school, need to close?

It depends on how much of your school building(s) contains RAAC. 

If the DfE gets in touch to confirm the presence of RAAC, it will work with your school and trust leaders to establish: 

  • The amount of RAAC in your building(s) 
  • The likely size and scale of works to mitigate it 
  • The support your leaders think your school might need during this period 

Your school(s) will need to vacate and restrict access to spaces with RAAC, and make sure that they’re out of use. If the RAAC is in a small enough area, it might be able to do this with minimal disruption. 

If this isn't possible, your school's DfE caseworker will advise leaders on the next steps, which may involve activating the school's contingency plan for full or partial school closure. 

If the scale of work needed is large, the DfE will allocate an additional project delivery manager to support your school.

If it does, where should school take place instead?

If, after closing off the areas containing RAAC, your school is left with insufficient space to run as normal, leaders will need to draw up emergency and longer-term plans to accommodate face-to-face education.

Short-term solutions 

For the first few weeks, your school(s) may need to use: 

  • Space in a nearby, local school, college or nursery  
  • Semi-rigid temporary structures that can be quickly brought in
  • Space in a community centre or empty local office building 

Your school's DfE caseworker will discuss these options with leaders. 

If the disruption to your school is longer-term 

After the first few weeks of emergency accommodation, if it’s possible, your school should use structural supports to make areas with RAAC safe. The DfE will discuss this with your leaders.

If this isn’t possible, your school should procure temporary accommodation for its school site. If you don’t have space for this on-site, your school should discuss this with its caseworker. 

What if pupils may struggle to get to an alternative location? 

Your leaders should identify any pupils who may have difficulty getting to their alternative setting, and consider how your school can support them. 

School leaders will need to work with your LA to make sure suitable arrangements are in place for pupils who are usually eligible for free travel to your school, but who may now be educated elsewhere. 

Some pupils who weren’t previously eligible for free travel may become eligible if they need to temporarily attend a new location. This is more likely to be possible for pupils who need to attend an alternative setting for a prolonged period of time, than those who only need to attend for a short while. 

See more about this in the home-to-school travel guidance.

What if there isn’t space for all pupils to continue learning face-to-face?

Your school should prioritise: 

  • Vulnerable children 
  • The children of critical workers
  • Pupils due to take examinations and other formal assessments 

See more about these groups in this guidance

Remote learning should be a last resort 

Your school should only ever consider using this: 

  • For a short period of time
  • Where all other options to continue face-to-face education – either on your site or at an alternative location – have been exhausted  
  • Where the alternative would therefore be no education provision

How will this impact safeguarding?

Your school should continue to follow its normal safeguarding procedures, including any new risk assessments that leaders may need to carry out in response to RAAC having been identified in your school.  

If pupils need to learn elsewhere due to RAAC in your school building(s), your school leaders need to consider how the school will keep in touch with pupils to make sure that they are safe and well. 

If your leaders need to consider remote education, they should consider phoning vulnerable pupils or putting other arrangements in place to keep in touch with them.  

What if our designated safeguarding lead (DSL) can’t be available on-site?  

In this case, a senior leader should take responsibility for coordinating safeguarding on-site. 

This might include: 

  • Updating and managing access to child protection files 
  • Liaising with the offsite DSL (or deputy) 
  • Liaising with children’s social workers where they require access to children in need, and/or to carry out statutory assessments at the school 

In addition to this, consider either:  

  • Making sure the DSL (or deputy) are contactable via phone or video call, e.g. if they’re working from another school 
  • Sharing trained DSLs (or deputies) from other schools, who should also be contactable via phone or video  

Make sure that all school staff and volunteers: 

  • Have access to a DSL or deputy 
  • Know who that person is 
  • Know how to contact them 

As a governing board, make sure your chair or safeguarding link governor checks in with your headteacher and/or DSL as soon as possible to make sure these arrangements are in place and have been communicated to all staff.

Who is responsible for our pupils if they have to learn from another institution? 

Before, or as soon as reasonably practicable after the pupil arrives at another institution (e.g. a nearby school), your DSL should provide the DSL of that institution with any relevant welfare and child protection information for that pupil. 

This could include: 

  • Why that pupil is vulnerable 
  • Any arrangements in place to support them
  • The pupil’s education, health and care (EHC) plan, child in need plan or child protection plan
  • Who the child's social worker is 
  • For looked-after children: their personal education plan and who the responsible virtual school head is 

Similarly, your SENCO should provide the other institution's SENCO with any oversight of the pupil’s SEN provision. If this isn’t possible, your SLT should take responsibility. 

For looked-after children, any change in school should be led and managed by the virtual head with responsibility for that child. 

Pupils with SEND 

If disruption to your school caused by RAAC makes it challenging for your school to deliver its normal SEND provision, your school will need to work with your LA to make sure your school can still meet its statutory duties for pupils with EHC plans.

Your SEND link governor or trustee should check in with your school or schools' special educational needs coordinators (SENCOs) to monitor the effect of the disruption on SEND provision and what they're doing to reduce this.

Where specialist provision (SEN units, resourced provision, special schools and alternative provision) is affected, leaders should inform whoever is in charge of commissioning those placements as soon as possible. 

See more about this on pages 13, 14 and 16 of the arrangements guidance

Where will the funding come from?

Funding for surveys 

Where your leaders are able to commission a survey more quickly than waiting for the DfE's surveyors, and by suitably qualified structural engineers, they should send a request to [email protected].

The DfE's advisers will review the proposal and, unless they identify unforeseen issues, will fund your school's own survey rather than sending DfE surveyors into your school.   

Funding for mitigation works 

The DfE will fund all capital-funded mitigation works. This includes propping and temporary units on your school site. Your school's caseworker will provide school leaders with the relevant form to fill in. 

Funding for additional revenue 

If your school needs support with additional revenue costs – for example, transport to locations or temporarily renting a local hall or office – your school leaders should discuss this with the caseworker and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in the first instance, to agree any further support. The DfE expects that all reasonable requests will be approved. 

Your school leaders should also contact your commercial insurer. 

How will pupils who can’t attend school receive school meals?

Your school should continue to provide: 

  • Meal options for all pupils who are in school 
  • Free meals to 
    • All infant pupils 
    • Pupils who are eligible for them 

If a child who qualifies for free school meals is receiving remote education, your school should continue to provide this support – for example, by providing a lunch parcel or vouchers.

If your school has children learning from alternative locations, leaders should work with the DfE (and the receiving school, if applicable) to identify the best way to provide these pupils with school meals. We're seeking further clarification on this and will update this article if we find out more.

Will Ofsted still inspect my school?

If your school has confirmed RAAC in some of its buildings, it is still eligible for Ofsted inspection. However, your school can make a request to defer the inspection when notified of a visit – and this will likely be sufficient grounds to do so.

If your school doesn't have confirmed RAAC, but is still impacted by RAAC (for example, if your school is hosting pupils from schools that have RAAC), Ofsted will consider any requests for a deferral of an inspection.

In cases where Ofsted has concerns about a school, it may send inspectors regardless of the school's situation with RAAC.

See Ofsted's statement for schools affected by RAAC.

What if pupils are due to take exams and assessments?

Your examination contingency plan should cover possible disruptions to exams and assessments, including alternative venues for these. 

See the emergency planning guidance for more details. 

What should we tell pupils, parents and carers? 

It's likely that your headteacher will be the person responsible for writing and sending letters to parents and carers about any disruption to your school.

However, if your school is closing, this may come from the governing board instead. Talk to your headteacher to decide who's responsible for what. 

Our download includes template letters to send to parents and carers about any planned disruption to your school, or to reassure them that your school is safe to open. 

You'll find letters for letting parents and carers know that:

  • Your school building doesn't contain RAAC and is safe to open 
  • Part of your school building(s) contains RAAC and will need to be closed, but that your school is still safe to open to all pupils 
  • A large amount of your school building(s) contains RAAC and that:
    • Your school can only safely open to some pupils, or
    • You've been asked to close the school 

Pass them on to your headteacher if necessary, or take a look at them to see the type of letter your school might send out.

Article updates

8 February 2024

We've updated this section to reflect the latest guidance from Ofsted on inspections for schools affected by RAAC.

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