Finchley school confirmed as first in borough hit by concrete safety crisis

Bishop Douglass School found to contain Raac on its site but all pupils remain in face-to-face education, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

Bishop Douglass School (credit Google)
Bishop Douglass School (credit Google)

A Barnet school is now known to contain a type of concrete prone to collapse that has sparked a nationwide safety alert.

Bishop Douglass School in Finchley has reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) on its site but all pupils remain in face-to-face education, the government has confirmed.

The Roman Catholic secondary school is on a list of education settings with confirmed Raac on their sites published by the Department for Education (DfE) yesterday (Wednesday 6th).

The concrete material, used in the construction of schools and other public buildings from the 1950s to the 1990s, has a lifespan of around 30 years.

Last week, the government told 104 schools to stop using buildings known to contain Raac until safety measures had been put in place. It said more than 50 schools had already installed “mitigations” this year.

Yesterday, Barnet Council said it had not found Raac in any of the schools it runs, although five are set to undergo follow-up surveys. Bishop Douglass School is a member of the Cardinal Hume Academies Trust, so is not a council-maintained school.

In a statement issued yesterday, the council said: “[On Tuesday], we completed our survey of the 51 schools for which the council is responsible. We can confirm that our engineering survey teams have not found any of our schools to be affected by Raac-related issues.

“In line with the request for the DfE for information on these 51 schools, we conducted a preliminary assessment that found that the majority were constructed after builders ceased to use Raac in construction.

“Engineering surveyors recently inspected 17 schools, where we needed further reassurance, and confirmed that Raac is not present in twelve of them. Clear access to areas that could potentially contain Raac was not possible in five schools, so follow-up surveys have been instructed for those schools to confirm whether Raac is present.

“In addition, we have been liaising with the other responsible bodies (dioceses and trusts) to ensure all schools in Barnet are safe. The council remains ready to offer advice and guidance to all schools in the borough, should that be necessary.

“We have also been made aware that one academy school, which had a survey conducted directly by DfE, has Raac in one of its buildings. This area has been made safe.

“The council has worked quickly to minimise the disruption for this week’s return to school, with only one school needing to hold online lessons to enable its inspection and ensure their children are safe, prior to the results of the survey. This survey found no evidence of Raac so the school has now returned to normal.”

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