Use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in public buildings
Last updated: Tuesday 12 September
On Thursday 31 August 2023 the UK Department for Education (DfE) announced that any space or area in schools, colleges or nurseries, with confirmed RAAC should no longer be open without "mitigations" being put in place.
In light of the significant media attention this matter has received in recent weeks we wanted to update you on our school estate in Dumfries and Galloway.
Earlier this year, in common with many local authorities across the UK, Dumfries and Galloway Council identified that some buildings we own had the potential to contain reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).
The council commissioned consulting engineers to undertake detailed inspections of nine schools as a matter of urgency. The inspections centred on confirming the presence of RAAC panel systems; assessing their span, width, thickness and condition; and quantifying the number of panels. This work is being undertaken in line with guidance from the Institution of Structural Engineers.
The council now has the results of all the surveys carried out by the team of structural engineers we hired to undertake this work.
Four schools have been identified as having RAAC panels in Dumfries and Galloway:
- Laurieknowe Primary School, Dumfries
- Carrutherstown Primary School, Nithsdale
- Dumfries Academy, Dumfries
- Gatehouse Primary School, Gatehouse of Fleet
There is no RAAC in any other Dumfries and Galloway Council schools.
Where practicable, any repair work recommended by our consulting engineers to the affected schools will be undertaken outwith school hours. There are no plans to close the schools while this work takes place.
In detail, these are the actions we are taking:
Laurieknowe Primary School - RAAC panels have been identified within the building. These have been surveyed. Some panels were found to be cracked. The recommendation is that immediate work is undertaken to install further support to a small number of these panels over a small area within the school. Due to the council being able to secure in-demand contractors ahead of schedule, work will now begin on Wednesday 13 September, brought forward from the October break. This work will now take place during school hours; it will not impact the operation of the school and all action being taken reflects the advice of the structural engineers. Further work is being planned to replace RAAC panels over the next 12 months. Parents, carers and staff have been informed.
To ensure safety, an enhanced monitoring and inspection regime, by a qualified structural engineer, will be adopted until this work is complete. In addition, as part of enhanced (weekly) inspections by our structural engineers, we have been advised to close two offices at the school until repair work can be completed as soon as possible. There is no effect on classrooms. These two offices will remain closed until our structural engineers are satisfied that they are ready to use again. Again, parents, carers, pupils and staff have been informed.
Carrutherstown Primary School - RAAC panels have been identified within the building. These have been surveyed and the panels are in good condition. Because of existing end-bearing characteristics the recommendation was that repair work to install additional support be undertaken within the next three to six months. Due to the council being able to secure in-demand contractors, work will now take place next month during the two-week October break. Parents, carers and staff have been informed. To ensure safety, an enhanced monitoring and inspection regime, by a qualified structural engineer, will be adopted until this work is complete.
Dumfries Academy - RAAC panels have been identified within the building. These have been surveyed. The recommendation is that a six-monthly monitoring inspection regime, by a qualified structural engineer, be adopted at this school. Furthermore, it is recommended that a small number of panels are replaced within the next 12 months. Parents, carers and staff have been informed.
Gatehouse Primary School - Inspections at both Kirkcudbright Academy and Gatehouse Primary School have been undertaken. There are no RAAC panels in Kirkcudbright Academy.
RAAC panels have been identified at Gatehouse Primary School. Our structural engineers have now undertaken more inspections and confirmed that the school is safe for pupils and staff. We await further detailed guidance from our structural engineers. Parents, carers and staff have been informed. All action being taken reflects the advice of the structural engineers. We will continue to work closely with Education colleagues and the headteacher as we progress this priority project. To ensure safety, an enhanced monitoring and inspection regime, by a qualified structural engineer, will be adopted until repair work is complete.
The safety of pupils, staff, parents and carers using these properties is our paramount concern and we will take all necessary measures to ensure this.
In terms of assurance, on the advice of our structural engineers, an enhanced inspection regime has been adopted for all four sites. Also, our buildings have recently been subject to condition surveys and ongoing regular checks are made as part of the Lead Occupier inspections by the council's clerk of works team. These will continue.
In addition, survey work is being undertaken across the rest of our council estate to investigate and identify any further buildings that may have these panels fitted - to which the same structural engineering inspection and reporting regime will be applied.
We will update this webpage regularly.
(Further detail can be found in the following committee paper to be discussed at the upcoming Education and Learning Committee on 14 September: COMMITTEE REPORT TEMPLATE & GUIDANCE (moderngov.co.uk)