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RAAC school faces £2m hit after pupils go elsewhere

One of England’s worst-hit RAAC schools has launched a bid for more government cash as it fears £2 million losses after its intake tumbled by a third. 

Bishop Wilkinson Catholic Education Trust CEO Nick Hurn believes the fall – which he blames on the crumbly concrete crisis – shows that the impact of the crisis is “going to be felt for years”. 

Meanwhile, leaders of one Norfolk primary are also gathering “evidence” to lodge with the Department for Education after witnessing what they believe to be a RAAC-induced drop in numbers.

Emma Harrison, business leadership specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, said that, if ministers had sought to deal with RAAC before it “reached crisis point, some of these problems could have been avoided”. 

“We do have members in RAAC-affected schools that have reported reduced admission applications for September, as well as in-year pupil transfers to neighbouring schools. 

“This clearly is going to have a significant impact and there needs to be a system of financial protection put in place for schools dealing with declining rolls as a consequence of RAAC.” 

At St Leonard’s, the secondary is set to welcome 168 children to its year 7 cohort in September. The figure is well short of the school’s 232-pupil admission number.

Estimates shared by Bishop Wilkinson suggest the shortfall could equate to a £2 million loss by the time the children finish their sixth-form studies.

Nick Hurn

 Hurn confirmed he has submitted a request to the DfE for the school to receive the same level of funding as last year. He noted that “every year group has been full and oversubscribed for the last 10 years”. 

“With applications having to be made in October, all the things we’ve managed to put in place since then have not had an effect on numbers. If it hadn’t been for RAAC, we’d have been full again.”

‘Look, can you fund this?’

Meanwhile Oliver Burwood, who runs the Diocese of Norwich Education and Academies Trust, said the concrete issue is believed to have contributed to reduced numbers at the Thomas Bullock school in Thetford. 

He described it as an “improving” school. It’s not “in an area of demographic decline, like some of our schools – the only difference is RAAC”.

Burwood is “trying to put together some evidence to put to our contact there [at DfE] to say, ‘Look, can you fund this?’” 

The Bradford Diocesan Academies Trust has also reported smaller-than-expected admissions numbers at one of its two RAAC-affected schools. 

The numbers entering the Christ Church CofE Academy at reception have “dramatically” fallen from 27 in 2022-23, to 16 for the next academic year. 

Chief executive Carol Dewhurst said: “We can see parents have opted to take their children to schools that haven’t had RAAC.” 

Despite this, Dewhurst argued there had been some “hidden positives”, including extensive renovations to buildings and additional investment in IT equipment.

 Harrison added: “The impact of the RAAC crisis is going to have a long tail and cause financial detriment for schools for years to come. They need to be supported throughout this process.”

The DfE said it would be misleading to suggest that three schools having a lower intake of pupils is representative of the experience of every setting affected. Other RAAC schools we contacted also said they had not witnessed a pupil drop.

The DfE stressed that the government has confirmed funding to remove RAAC for good from schools and colleges, either through grants or the school rebuilding programme.

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