Gillian Keegan flew to her Spanish holiday home four days after schools were recommended to close due to crumbling concrete.
As it turns out, the Education Secretary went ahead with her summer vacation despite knowing that hundreds of schools were likely to close.
Baroness Barran told MPs today that Ms Keegan received advice to close Reinforced Aerated Concrete (RAAC) buildings on August 21.
But the foreign secretary went ahead with her summer plans and traveled to her £300,000 Costa del Sol retreat four days later for her father’s birthday.
She was accused today of “doing nothing” and keeping school principals in the dark about the specific crisis for ten days.
Education Minister Gillian Keegan flew to her Spanish holiday home four days after recommending schools close because of crumbling concrete
The foreign secretary is accused of going ahead with her summer plans and traveling to her £300,000 Costa del Sol retreat four days later for her father’s birthday
In an urgent question, Shadow Secretary of State for Education Bridget Phillipson said: “She did nothing for four days.” And then she acted decisively.
“She was on vacation. For the better part of a week. Ten days passed from the day she received crucial advice to the day principals were told to close their schools.
“Just two weeks ago, the secretary of state responded simply and proudly to questions about the management of the department’s own building, the motto she has adopted: “Nothing to do with me.”
“She had…done a good job while others were sitting on their asses.”
Ms Keegan claims to have returned from holiday when the Department for Education (DfE) announced the closure of buildings with 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 to find emergency care for their children.
The Education Minister has claimed that she worked during her trip from August 25th to 31st.
She defended her decision to continue her holiday, saying: “I went abroad because it was the first time I was able to go abroad.”
Buttsbury Junior School in Billericay, Essex, is one of 27 other schools and colleges identified locally with RAAC
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan pictured leaving Downing Street in London after a cabinet meeting
“I went abroad for my father’s birthday, knowing full well that I [would] I’m still leading the sessions that I held on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, and then I made the decision to come back from vacation immediately.
“And I got back a day late because of the air traffic control incident and came back on Thursday to announce the decision.”
Her vacation began after she was caught on camera suggesting that “everyone else sat on their backside and did nothing” while she dealt with the crisis.
In footage released by ITV News, she said: “Has anyone ever said, ‘You know what, you’ve done a damn good job because everyone else has sat on their ass and done nothing?’ There’s no trace of that, no.”
Ms Keegan later apologized and admitted she was “frustrated with the interviewer” who “made it seem like it was all my fault”.
Today new figures have revealed that concrete defects have been found in 174 educational establishments in England.
The updated list shows that 24 schools in England have had to offer remote learning due to RAAC issues.
And that 148 of the 174 educational institutions where a concrete risk of collapse has been proven offer full-time face-to-face teaching to all students.
Work is underway at Hornsey School for Girls in London to resolve problems relating to reinforced aerated concrete (RAAC).
As the concrete crisis gripped schools, construction workers appeared to be on scaffolding removing bricks from a chimney at Sale Grammar School
In response to the crisis, at least 29 schools have ordered nearly 250 temporary classrooms.
Baroness Barran told the education committee that Ms Keegan received the advice days before a third collapse 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’s when she made the decision, which obviously was eventually ratified by No. 10.”
When asked to clarify the timing, she added: “So the advice went to her on the 21st and then at the closing event.” [collapse] was two or three days later.
“I really think the answer to that is that we couldn’t have acted any quicker.”
Temporary classrooms at Crossflatts Primary School in Bradford damaged with poor quality reinforced aerated concrete
“Because the advice we received clearly included a range of options, from immediate closure to phased closure and some sort of warning period.
“And as ministers we have advised the foreign minister that we should take the most cautious path.”
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said a “clear plan” was needed to deal with the crisis.
While Daniel Kebede, secretary general of the National Education Union (NEU), said the number of affected schools would “certainly increase”.
The DfE has been contacted for comment.