UK schools face mould, sewage leaks and vermin as teachers battle ‘chronic’ problems

Two in five teachers have spotted signs of vermin or pests in their schools, while one in ten reported “severe” sewage leaks in the buildings. The grim findings come from a new survey of the 8,000 members of the National Education Union.

The damaging report highlights the crumbling state of school buildings in England and Wales, with widespread reports of sewage and wastewater leaks, overheating, severe cold, pests and mould.

Perhaps most damning was that more than half (57 percent) of teachers said the state of their school facilities was so bad it was having a negative impacting the learning environment.

The report from the biggest education union in the country found that two-thirds of teachers reported working in schools with sewage or wastewater leaks.

Temperatures were also a major issue in ageing school buildings. A third of teachers who responded aid pupils were being taught in “severely overheated” conditions in summer and one in six (16 percent) complained of the severe cold in winter.

Other issues raised included windows that either did not open or close, carpets damp with rainwater, expanding mould, holes in ceilings, and classrooms off limits due to asbestos or crumbling concrete.

One teacher said in the online survey: “The conditions have led to diagnosis of asthma in staff and pupils, and led to long-term sickness due to lung infection and exacerbation of asthma.”

Another teacher wrote: “Two years ago, the ceiling fell in in my classroom after some heavy rain. It was lucky this happened in the middle of the night or people, including me, would have been seriously injured.”

A third NEU member added: “Our building is full of asbestos and is falling down. Pieces of the plaster/concrete on walls and ceiling regularly flake off.”

The NEU general secretary, Daniel Kebede, said: “Leaks and ventilation are a chronic issue for many. The fact is that this government has neglected school and college buildings for 14 years. At the present rate of 50 schools a year, the government’s school rebuilding programme will take 460 years to complete its work. That is many more generations of children to fail.

“This must change. We need to see a serious injection of new money into projects that will regenerate the school estate and ensure that asbestos, RAAC and time spent learning in Portakabins are a thing of the past. If this government was serious about education and the wellbeing of staff and students then it would do so.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said schools and sixth form colleges will benefit from £1.8bn this financial year to help maintain buildings, taking the total amount of funding to over £17bn since 2015.

The survey is the latest reminder of the crumbling school infrastructure in England and Wales.

The RAAC crisis – which stands for reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete – in September sparked a wave of emergency school closures at the start of term. The building material assessed to be at risk of collapse was used in thousands of UK public structures from the 1950s to the 1990s.

A parliamentary committee report in November last year found that “following years of underinvestment” the overall condition of the schools was declining. MPs warned that the state of disrepair was so bad that around 700,000 pupils are learning in a school in need of major rebuilding or refurbishment.

At the time, a Department of Education spokesperson said they “do not accept the committee’s assessment”.

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