The Independent View

Crumbling schools have become a symbol of Tory incompetence

As the Commons returns from its six-week summer break on Monday, Rishi Sunak’s much-trailed “reset” has got off to an inauspicious start. Schools in England are also due back but many pupils, parents and teachers faced an anxious wait over the weekend to find out whether their schools will operate normally. It emerged this summer that the reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete used in the construction of buildings between the 1950s and 1990s is more dangerous than previously thought.

There is growing evidence that ministers brushed aside warnings about the problem following the partial collapse of a secondary school roof in Kent in 2018, which thankfully happened over a weekend. The temptation to kick the can down the road was too great – an example of the costly short-termism that afflicts our politicians.

The response of ministers to the latest crisis is also worrying. Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, seen by some as one of the Conservatives’ rising stars, should have faced the music by appearing on the Sunday morning TV and radio programmes. Instead, the government tried to change the music by fielding the chancellor Jeremy Hunt, with a message that his economic strategy was finally paying dividends.

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