1 Viscount Hailsham debates involving the Department for Education

Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete in Education Settings

Viscount Hailsham Excerpts
Monday 4th September 2023

(10 months, 2 weeks ago)

Lords Chamber
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Viscount Hailsham Portrait Viscount Hailsham (Con)
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My Lords, does my noble friend agree that it is highly undesirable for schools to have to resort to online teaching? If that is the case, would she encourage those with spaces to make them available as temporary classrooms? I have in mind, for examples, churches—that point might be noted on the Bishops’ Benches—village halls, private sector schools with available classrooms and maybe commercial premises that have not been let.

Also, if there are problems associated with health and safety regulations—planning, transport, insurance and things of that kind—can the Government address them as a matter of urgency?

Baroness Barran Portrait Baroness Barran (Con)
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I completely agree with my noble friend. We are most concerned to minimise online teaching and remote learning. Our children have been out of the classroom enough with Covid, and this House knows the seriousness of issues with attendance. We all know that this is the moment in the year when we want children in the classroom—on 4 September, or maybe 5 September if there is an inset day.

In relation to online teaching, perhaps it will reassure my noble friend if I say that we have already worked with 52 schools and mitigated over the last few months, before this change in policy when we identified a critical grade. The average number of days lost for those children was six. Six days is a lot. For some children it was more and for some it was none.

In the vast majority of those cases, the whole school does not have RAAC across all its roofs and floors; it is typically in a small area of the school. I bumped into someone this afternoon who was talking about their secondary school. They are able to reorganise the space in their school. They will miss one day of school tomorrow and then all the children will be back on Wednesday. That is in a big secondary school.

On my noble friend’s second point, in those first 52 cases, we are so grateful to other local schools, some of which have spare space and have bent over backwards to make sure that children do not miss a single day more than they need to.