School buildings are hit by lack of funds (Picture: Alamy)

Around 700,000 children are being taught in unsafe or ageing school buildings in England that need major repairs, according to a report. The National Audit Office (NAO) says the Department for Education (DfE) has, since 2021, assessed the risk of injury or death from a school building collapse as “very likely and critical”. The NAO, the public ­spending watchdog, said risks had not been addressed because of years of underfunding. It said the deteriorating condition of school buildings was damaging pupil attainment and teacher retention.

Steve Marsland, head teacher at Russell Scott Primary School, in Manchester, said his head is filled with “worry and panic” over keeping the 460 children at his school safe after raw sewage came up through the floors “on many occasions”. “We had a ­plummet in attendance through sickness after the sewage floods, it is an ­absolute disgrace. It has been going on since 2015 and is down to poor building practice,” he told BBC Breakfast.

The report found more than a third (24,000) of all English school buildings had passed their estimated initial design life. And it highlighted continuing concerns for school buildings that still contain reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC)—a lightweight form of concrete prone to collapse, used widely between the 1950s and mid-1990s.

The DfE has identified 572 schools where RAAC might be present, so far confirming it in 65, of which 24 required immediate action. The NAO also said a safety risk from asbestos was also more severe in poorly ­maintained buildings.

Keir Starmer’s missing files

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), England and Wales’ public prosecutor, has deleted all records of its former head Keir Starmer’s trips to the US. Starmer served as Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) from 2008-13, a period when the body was overseeing Julian Assange’s proposed extradition to Sweden to face questioning over sexual assault allegations.

Assange now faces imminent extradition to the US to face up to 175 years in prison under charges related to revealing the crimes of imperialism alongside Chelsea Manning. While DPP, Starmer made trips to Washington in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 at a cost to the British taxpayer of £21,603. It was his most frequent foreign destination while in post. Max Hill, the current DPP, has made just one trip to Washington during his five-year tenure. The CPS has admitted to destroying key emails related to the Assange case, mostly covering the period when Starmer was in charge.

Profits causing high inflation

The International Monetary Fund, the high priest of  free-market capitalism, says profiteering is the main reason for rising inflation. In a recent report, it said, “Rising corporate profits account for almost half the increase in Europe’s inflation over the past two years as companies increased prices by more than spiking costs.” And Christine Lagarde the head of the European Central Bank was forced to admit the same message. “During previous shocks in the euro area, firms had tended to absorb rising costs in profit margins. But the special conditions we experienced last year turned this regularity on its head,” she said last week.  Lagarde added that corporate profits accounted for about two-thirds of inflation in 2022 compared with the average over the previous 20 years of one third.

Britain’s largest mobile and broadband companies have pushed through the biggest round of price rises for more than 30 years. BT, Vodafone, Three, Virgin Media, O2 and the smaller Tesco Mobile and iD Mobile companies gorged a 3.9 percentage point supplement on top of their annual inflation-linked increases this year. That meant mid-contract price increases of up to 17.3 percent. The practice of adding a 3.9 percentage point supplement began during the pandemic when inflation was near zero.

Virgin Galactic is flying customers to the edge of space at up to £350,000 per ticket. The space tourism venture was founded by billionaire Richard Branson. Virgin will be the latest commercial enterprise to find new ways to spend money along with Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and fellow billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX. They cater to wealthy customers willing to pay large sums of money to experience rocket speed. Shame they have to land really.

Cop sexually assaulted a woman on his stag do

A serving Metropolitan Police officer has been found guilty of sexually assaulting a stranger on Brighton beach while he was on his own stag do. Sergeant Laurence Knight was off-duty at the celebration in July when he met the 21-year-old in Brighton town centre.

They headed for the sea and were treading water together when Knight complained he was having a “rubbish night” and meant to be having fun, jurors were told. The court heard Knight, moved her underwear to one side and assaulted her after she told him, “You’re getting married in two weeks.” Knight, of Leyton, east London, was charged with rape and sexual assault following the incident and denied both charges.

Last week he was found not guilty of rape but convicted of sexual assault. The police sergeant was based at Stoke Newington police station in north London.

Child refugees waiting months for school place

Child refugees are having to wait months for places in schools. The long waits are leaving traumatised teenagers “increasingly vulnerable”, experts say. Waheed, 16, arrived in London last year following a deeply traumatic experience fleeing the Taliban in Afghanistan. His mother was one of 182 people killed in a bomb blast outside Kabul airport on 26 August  2021 as people waited to board an evacuation plane. Waheed and his four brothers survived but had to return to their village. They then travelled for five months, walking and taking trains when they could to reach their father in England. When they finally made it to Britain, the six of them were forced to share two hotel rooms in Streatham.

One night his father took Waheed to hospital because he was feeling suicidal. It took seven months for Waheed to be given a school place. Britain claims to find education access to child refugees and asylum seekers within 20 school days. There is no evidence of it ever being achieved.

Things they say

‘In Selby they shouted at me, In Frome they were just  silent’

A Tory MP finds some comfort on the by-election campaign trail

‘We just have to hope that something unidentified turns up, like an alien invasion. It’s not a great strategy but that’s where we are now’

Another Tory MP

‘Alternative forms of governance’

Motion to Kirkwall council this week to investigate whether Orkney should leave Britain

‘Considering leaving Britain’

Nigel Farage is threatening to leave Britain after his bank accounts were closed

‘Deterrence works’

Rishi Sunak defends his determination to keep trying to deport people to Rwanda


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