Tory Minister Says He'd Let His Relatives Learn In Classes Held Up By Steel Girders

"You musn't like your nieces and nephews very much," Nick Gibb was told.
A general view of an empty school classroom in England.
A general view of an empty school classroom in England.
Nathan Stirk via Getty Images

A Tory minister has said he’d be “happy” for his young relatives to be taught in classrooms where the ceilings are held up by temporary steel girders.

Nick Gibb made the shock admission as more than 100 schools were told they will need to either partially or completely close because the concrete used to build them - known as RAAC - is at risk of collapse.

Labour have accused the government of “staggering incompetence” after the order was issued just days before pupils are due to return after the summer holidays.

Appearing on LBC this morning, Gibb was asked by presenter Nick Ferrari: “In all honesty Nick, would you be happy with your nieces and nephews sitting in a classroom under a propped up RSJ, which is a steel joint.”

The minister replied: “Yes, because we are being very ...”

Ferrari interrupted him to say: “You’d be happy for your nieces and nephews to be in a classroom underneath a ceiling under a steel girder held up by props?”

Gibb said: “Yes.”

“You don’t like your nieces and nephews very much,” the presenter hit back.

But Gibb said: “We’re taking a very precautionary approach. Some would say we are being over-cautious in dealing with this.

“But the advice is that you can prop up these beams. Where they are in a more dangerous condition, of course we take that room out of this altogether.”

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson said: “Children sat underneath steel girders to protect them from the ceiling falling in: the defining image of thirteen years of a Conservative-run education system.

“You can’t give children a first class education in second rate buildings. The next Labour government will ensure schools are fit for purpose and children are safe.”

Gibb had earlier admitted that some of the affected schools have yet to be contacted by the government, and that it is still not known how many will have to close completely.

He was also grilled on BBC Breakfast over the government’s response to the crisis.

The minister said RACC was used between the 1950s and 1990s, and that surveys were sent to every school in England in 2022 asking whether it was present in their buildings.

He said that prior to yesterday, the government had already taken action in 52 schools where RACC was identified.

Presenter Naga Munchetty said: “Is it fair to say that they were unsafe up until that point - that children were attending schools with buildings unsafe?”

Gibb replied: “This evidence was emerging over time ...”

The presenter then interrupted to say: “It’s a simple yes or no, isn’t it? They were either safe or unsafe.”

The minister said: “Well we felt, having had that evidence, that parts of the school that had RACC that was in a criticial condition were not safe.”

“So they could have potentially collapsed?” Munchetty replied.

Gibb said: “Yes and that’s why we took action.”


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