PETROC College of Further Education and Higher Education, which has three campuses across North and Mid Devon, was recently announced as the only school or college in Devon found to have some buildings, or parts of, constructed using RAAC concrete.
The government announced earlier this week that 147 schools in England have safety issues because they were built using the lightweight material, Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), which was used mostly in flat roofing, but also in walls and floors between the 1950’s and 1990’s.
RAAC is a cheaper alternative to standard concrete, is quicker to produce and easier to install.
It is aerated, or “bubbly”, like at Aero chocolate bar.
The Department for Education (DfE) compiled the list of schools affected.
Petroc College has said that two buildings on its Barnstaple campus had been identified as having RAAC.
The college said it identified RAAC in the buildings in February, one being in a library roof.
It says that one building has been repaired and the other remains closed.
The college has campuses in Barnstaple and Tiverton offering higher and further education courses, having the largest sixth form in North Devon.
Yesterday, Wednesday, September 6, Dr Sean Mackney, Petroc Principal and Chief Executive, wrote to parents and carers about this issue and in it said that it took “immediate action” when RAAC was identified, adding that there was “no rush” to staff or students.
The letter reads: “You may have seen national news stories this week about schools and buildings constructed by a particular type of concrete – known as RAAC.
“I am writing to reassure you of the safety of learning and facilities at Petroc.
“The College, through our own professional surveyors, identified on February 3, 2023, that there were two areas on our North Devon campus on Old Sticklepath Hill in Barnstaple where RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete) was present.
“There was none identified on our other campuses. We acted immediately, evacuating and sealing off the two spaces on the day they were identified so that no staff or students could enter.
“We commissioned an inspection from specialist structural engineers the following week and confirmed with Government structural engineers, who also inspected, what work was required to fix the issue.
“In one area, a comprehensive new supporting roof structure was installed as recommended by the engineers.
“That space re-opened in August.
“The second area remains sealed off so that no students, staff or visitors can access it, so there is no danger from RAAC to anyone on campus.
“Specialist engineering support structures have been installed in the space as a precaution, as advised by the engineers.
“We may include this area in a wider campus improvement project and continue to work closely with the Government complex projects team over the best fix for this space. It remains closed and sealed off.
“All learners, visitors and staff on campus remain safe.
“As a parent myself, I understand how important it is to be assured of your child’s wellbeing while studying with us.
“The safety of our students and staff is the most important priority for us.
“This is why we took immediate action back in February when we identified the presence of this concrete. There is no risk from it to learners, staff or visitors at Petroc.
“If you have any further questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.
“Thank you for your understanding and ongoing support.”
The College said that it hoped parents and carers would be reassured by the communication sent to parents and guardians, with a similar message also communicated to learners who attend the College.