More schools may have to shut over concrete fears amid warning chaos could continue for years

The government has admitted that the number of schools forced to close over dangerous crumbling concrete is likely to rise – as teachers and parents were braced for years of disruption over the issue.

As school leaders prepared for a weekend dash to inspect more buildings and put in temporary measures before next week’s back-to-school rush, Nick Gibb admitted there “may be more” schools, nurseries and colleges affected by the chaos, on top of the 156 already identified.

The schools minister also conceded that some parents are still in the dark about whether their children will return to classrooms after the summer break, with some schools still unaware they will have to close.

Amid warnings the number of affected schools could rise to more than 1,000, the government faced mounting questions about how many more children would be forced out of classrooms – and why ministers hadn’t acted sooner.

In other developments:

In a shocking admission on Friday morning, Mr Gibb said only the “vast majority” of schools had been informed they would have to close.

“We have been calling them yesterday, but there are a few more that we’re calling today, and those schools are now talking to parents about what’s going to happen in their school,” he told the BBC.

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But despite thousands of pupils and staff now expected to be unable to return to school, Mr Gibb refused to publish a full list of those affected. “We want the parents to hear from the school, not to read about it in the media first,” he said.

He also said more schools may be forced to shut classrooms as the Department for Education (DfE) gathers more evidence about the presence of RAAC, with some schools still expected to return surveys about the presence of the material.

Thousands of pupils across the country will be forced to resume their studies either online or in temporary facilities, after the government ordered more than 100 schools to close immediately following fears over the concrete, described as “80 per cent air” and “like an Aero Bar”.

The dangerous material was used to construct schools, colleges, and other buildings between the 1950s and mid-1970s in the UK, but has since been found to be at risk of collapse.

The government said that of the 156 schools found to contain RAAC, 104 require urgent action, while 52 have already received repair works.

One of those was Willowbrook Mead Primary Academy in Leicester, which received news that it had to close on Thursday – days after pupils went back after the summer break.

“My understanding is they literally evacuated the place,” parent Raj Kaur told The Independent. “The first most parents knew about it was when we arrived for pick-up. All the children were out on the field. It was awful. Children were crying.”

Roughly half of Willowbrook Mead – a 470-pupil school serving an area of high deprivation – is made of the concrete in question. Most pupils will now learn online for the next 10 days before two entire year groups – 3 and 4 – are moved to two other city schools. Years 5 and 6, meanwhile, will be squashed into spare classrooms and shared areas away from the danger zone.

Some parents say teachers have told them it could be well into 2025.

“If they’d made this decision in July, the headteacher could have made other plans and we wouldn’t now be rushing around trying to make the best of an absolutely awful situation,” said mother of five Laura Smith.

“There’d still be disruption but it would be far less because everyone would have had six weeks to prepare.”

People leave the school in Leicester with chairs and other items after it was closed

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