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Ofsted rejects RAAC school inspection exemption call

Ofsted has rejected calls to automatically exempt schools with RAAC from inspection, but urged leaders to use its deferral policy if they get the call.

In the autumn term, the watchdog removed all schools affected by the crumbly concrete from its inspection schedule.

But since January, these schools have been eligible for inspection.

Geoff Barton, the general secretary of the ASCL school leaders’ union, wrote yesterday to education secretary Gillian Keegan to request an extension of the approach.

He asked “that you instruct Ofsted to continue to avoid scheduling for inspection any school on the published RAAC list until the school is fully operational, unless the headteacher has notified Ofsted that they are happy to undergo an inspection”.

Geoff Barton

In a statement issued today, Ofsted said RAAC schools would continue to be eligible for inspection, “however this will be sufficient grounds to defer the inspection, should the school wish to”.

“We know that the situation with RAAC is still causing challenges for school staff, pupils and their parents and guardians.

“For schools that do not have confirmed RAAC but may still be impacted by RAAC, for example where a school is hosting pupils from schools that have RAAC, we will carefully consider any requests for a deferral of an inspection”

It comes after Barton took aim in his letter at the pace of government action to address the RAAC crisis in schools.

He said the danger of structural failure in school buildings where RAAC was used in construction “has been known since at least 2018”.

‘Extremely difficult position’

“The unacceptable length of time it has taken the government to act on a risk of this seriousness has led directly to the extremely difficult position in which many school leaders now find themselves.”

He also echoed calls for mitigations to exams for pupils in affected schools.

Where schools have had to close specialist provision like science labs, “students in these subjects should automatically be given special consideration for coursework and non-exam assessment (NEA) in any subjects affected”.

This “should be at a cohort level, without the need for centres to apply individually for each candidate, as is currently the case”.

He added that special consideration “should include the maximum extended time to complete the NEA, and the maximum percentage of additional marks available under current JCQ guidance”.

He also called on chancellor Jeremy Hunt to introduce a “new recovery funding stream for all 231 RAAC-impacted schools in the spring budget”, and said government must ensure outstanding RAAC spending by schools is reimbursed “as soon as possible”.

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