Parents plead with Government to support pupils at Essex’s Raac schools with exams

Pupils at Honywood School, Thurstable School, Thomas Lord Audley School, and The Gilberd School have all faced disruption after guidance from the Department for Education (DfE) regarding collapse-prone reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) shifted some teaching online.

While normality has resumed at some schools, pupils at others have had to be taught online at home while those year groups that could still go in faced large class sizes and teaching in sports halls.

Those taking GCSEs and A-levels have missed out on weeks of quality teaching, their parents have said.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Affected - Thurstable SchoolAffected – Thurstable School (Image: PA)

When asked what provisions would be made to support pupils who have missed out on face-to-face learning in the run up to exam season during a visit to Clacton on Wednesday, Rishi Sunak failed to provide reassurances to pupils in Years 10 to 13.

“We’re already investing record sums into our schools, particularly to help our pupils catch up from the lost learning from Covid,” he said.

“We’re in the midst at the moment of the biggest ever tutoring programme that this country has ever seen which we’ve invested £5billion in to provide millions of tutoring hours particularly for our most disadvantaged children who suffered enormously as a result of the lost learning during Covid.”

During the coronavirus pandemic, pupils were awarded centre assessed grades.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: PM - Rishi Sunak in ClactonPM – Rishi Sunak in Clacton (Image: PA)

Maria Baxter, who has a son in Year 11 at a Raac-affected school, said even if exams were not being affected currently, pupils are still disadvantaged as coursework, which counts towards their grades, has been disrupted.

“It’s not that they are lazy, if it was their choice and they didn’t care then be it on their head, but it is nothing to do with that, it’s not their fault and this is the really frustrating thing,” she added.

Ofqual, the body which regulates exams in the UK, said schools and colleges should get in touch with their exam boards to help minimise the impact of the crisis on students.

The Department for Education believed qualifications should represent what students know, rather than what they might have known had circumstances been different.

On Thursday, it was announced another eight schools across the county have been identified as having Raac on site, including Cann Hall Primary School, Manningtree High School, and Spring Meadow Primary School.

Essex is the worst hit local authority with 63 schools confirmed with Raac, according to the National Education Union.