During the Public Account Committee’s (PAC) inquiry into the condition of school buildings, Mark received an apology from the Department for Education’s top civil servant, Permanent Secretary, Susan Acland-Hood, over the Department’s handling of the closure of the King Edmund School in Rochford, following the discovery of asbestos on the school’s premises.
Mark, who has now had two schools in his constituency close due to the discovery of either asbestos or Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC), raised his concerns about whether the Department has sufficient resources to address these problems across the country, given the large expense associated with dealing with such issues.
Mark then went on to speak specifically about the closure of the King Edmund School and the way in which the Department for Education handled the whole situation, including the clearance of asbestos.
Ms Acland-Hood took this opportunity to formally apologise to Mark and the parents and pupils affected by this closure, saying:
“I wanted to say on behalf of the Department that we were very sorry about what happened at King Edmund, it should not have happened the way it did […] I did just want to say to parents and pupils at King Edmund, on behalf of the Department, that we are really sorry that happened in that school and we are learning lessons from it as well and working with our contractors.”
Mr Francois, in appreciation of Ms Acland-Hood’s comments, replied:
“Thank you for what you have said, on behalf of my constituents and the school, thank you – they will be grateful.”
The main block at King Edmund School is now in the process of being completely rebuilt. Mark Francois is now dealing with the RAAC issue at Hockley Primary School, as well.