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Colleges and concrete

04 September 2023

A statement on colleges and concrete

On 31 August, the Department for Education updated its guidance to schools and colleges about how to manage buildings containing reinforced aerated autoclaved concrete (RAAC) in walls and ceilings. DfE has said that more than 150 are known to have RAAC in their building fabric and has written to more than 100 telling them they need to take mitigation action which, in a large number of cases, has involved building closures, remedial action and a delayed start to the term.

Commenting on this situation as it applies to colleges, AoC Deputy Chief Executive, Julian Gravatt, said "Colleges in England operate from more more than 4,500 buildings and we are certain that there will be a few cases where these buildings contain RAAC but, so far, there are no cases where this has required a significant building closure or a delay to the start of term. It can be quite hard to locate RAAC in a building because it is sometimes hidden by cladding but colleges have a good track record in managing their buildings and the vast majority (more than 90%) returned questionnaires to DfE when asked to do so earlier this year. DfE has commissioned specialist surveyors to carry out on-site inspections in schools and colleges in cases to follow up suspected cases. This work continues.

DfE and HM Treasury agreed a larger capital budget for further education for the three year period from 2022 to 2025, including new programmes to tackle a backlog of poor condition buildings but this has come after a decade of declining spending with 2019-20 financial year being a 20 year low point in government support for college capital.

The safety of students, staff and members of the public is top of the list for every college leadership team."

DfE capital spending on further education reached a low point of £175 million in 2019-20 but has increased since with the allocation of £200 million in one-off FE condition allocation grants in 2020-1 (announced in July 2020) and a £2.8 billion budget for the three years from 2022 to 2025 to improve building condition, fund additional places for a growing population, support new T level programmes and deliver other priorities. DfE is directly managing 16 projects in colleges with buildings in the worst condition, announced £400 million in 2022 to support condition improvement projects in 62 more colleges and distributed £286 million in formula capital grants to another group of colleges who missed out on these two rounds.