Gillian Keegan jetted off to her £300,000 Costa del Sol holiday home four days after being advised to close schools with crumbling concrete: Minister is accused of keeping headteachers in the dark over crisis
- Keegan claims she returned when the announcement to shut schools was made
Gillian Keegan jetted off to her Spanish holiday home four days after being advised to close schools with crumbling concrete.
The Education Secretary continued with her summer getaway despite knowing that hundreds of schools would likely close, it has been revealed.
Baroness Barran told MPs today that Mrs Keegan was given the advice to shut buildings with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) on August 21.
But the Secretary of State carried on her summer plans, travelling to her £300,000 retreat on the Costa del Sol for her father’s birthday four days later.
She was today accused of ‘doing nothing’ and keeping the headteachers in the dark over the concrete crisis for ten days.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan jetted off to her Spanish holiday home four days after being advised to close schools with crumbling concrete
The Secretary of State is accused of carrying on with her summer plans, travelling to her £300,000 retreat on the Costa del Sol for her father’s birthday four days later
In an urgent question, Shadow Secretary of state for Education Bridget Phillipson said: ‘She did nothing, for four days. And then she acted decisively.
READ MORE: Now 174 schools in England are found to have ‘crumbly’ RAAC concrete with 24 now resorting to remote learning: Full list revealed
‘She went on holiday. For the best part of a week. Ten days passed, from the day she received the crucial advice, to the day the headteachers were told to close their schools.
‘Just a fortnight ago the Secretary of State’s response to questions about the management of the department’s own building, was simple and proud, the motto she has made her own: “Nothing to do with me”.
‘She had done a … good job, while others had been sat on their backsides.’
Ms Keegan claims to have returned from holiday when the Department for Education (DfE) made the announcement to shut down buildings containing crumbling concrete in more than 100 schools.
In a day of turmoil just four days before the start of the school year, children were banned from buildings while parents scrambled for emergency childcare.
The Education Secretary has maintained that she was working throughout her trip between August 25 and August 31.
Defending her decision to continue with her holiday, she said: ‘I went abroad because that was the first time I could go abroad.
Buttsbury Junior School in Billericay, Essex, is one of 27 further schools and colleges which have been identified with RAAC on site
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan pictured leaving Downing Street, London, following a Cabinet meeting
‘I went abroad for my father’s birthday, knowing that I [would] still be chairing the meetings, which I did on the Saturday, on the Sunday, on the Monday and then I made the decision to come back from holiday immediately.
READ MORE: Gillian Keegan’s £300,000 holiday home where the under-siege Education Secretary enjoyed a sun-kissed break as the schools crumbling concrete crisis loomed back home
‘And I came back one day delay because of the air traffic control incident and I got back to announce the decision on Thursday.’
Her holiday emerged after she was caught on camera suggesting that ‘everyone else has sat on their arse and done nothing’ as she tackled the crisis.
In footage released by ITV News she said: ‘Does anyone ever say, you know what, you’ve done a f****** good job because everyone else has sat on their arse and done nothing? No sign of that, no.’
Ms Keegan later apologised and admitted she was ‘frustrated with the interviewer’ who was ‘making out it was all my fault’.
Today, new figures revealed that 174 education settings in England have been found to have failing concrete.
The updated list suggests 24 schools in England have had to offer some remote learning because of RAAC issues.
And that 148 of the 174 education settings confirmed to have the collapse risk concrete are offering full-time, face-to-face learning to all pupils.
Work takes places to fix issues related to reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) at Hornsey School for Girls in London
Construction workers appeared to be on scaffolding dismantling bricks from a chimney at Sale Grammar School as the concrete crisis gripped schools
Almost 250 temporary classrooms have been ordered by at least 29 schools in response to the crisis.
Baroness Barran told the education committee that Ms Keegan was given the advice days before a third collapse took place at a school in England.
She said: ‘The advice went to the Secretary of State, I think it was the third week of August and that was when she took the decision which was obviously finally ratified through No10.’
Asked to clarify the timeline, she added: ‘So the advice went to her on the 21st and then the final event [collapse] was two or three days later.
‘I genuinely think the answer to that is we couldn’t have acted quicker.
Temporary classrooms at Crossflatts primary in Bradford which has been affected with sub standard reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete
‘Because clearly the advice we received went through a range of options from immediate closure to staged closure and a kind of like warning period.
‘And as ministers, our advice for the Secretary of State was that we should take the most cautious route.’
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said a ‘clear plan’ was needed to deal with the crisis.
While Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said the number of schools impacted was ‘certain to grow’.
The DfE was contacted for comment.
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