Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete. Or RAAC if you want to keep it zippy. Not words I thought I'd ever be typing let alone putting thought into. And yet here we are. Because it turns out many of our public buildings from the 1950s up to the mid-1990s were built with the concrete equivalent of Aero bars.

I’m being glib here but it’s really no joke. This lightweight form of concrete, a cheaper alternative to standard concrete, used during this period comes with significant problems and, potentially, extremely hazardous consequences.

According to an article by Scottish Construction Now and Colin Tait, a civil and structural director at Harley Haddow, this form of concrete, used in many schools, hospitals, police stations, colleges and universities can fail due to, ‘Cracking to the plank, particularly near its support and water ingress – whereby it turns the concrete, in essence, to a ‘sponge’,’ adding, ‘Hidden behind false ceilings, collapse of these planks could be without warning and devastating’.

So far this material has been identified in over 150 schools south of the border, with over 100 closing either completely or partially, and at least 35 in Scotland. However, information is far from transparent. While some local authorities have held their hands up, informing parents which schools are impacted and what plans they have in place, other local authorities are simply claiming that, ‘A review was ongoing’.

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As a parent I am sure I’m not the only one who is curious to find why English authorities felt that the huge disruption of closing or partially closing schools at the beginning of the school year was unavoidable, while our own kids in Scotland go off to schools that might be compromised.

It's true that this sort of measure comes at an enormous inconvenience and cost. Sudden school closures or relocations mean parents are left to find childcare or change their regular, delicately calibrated daily commutes.

In one school in England, the canteen has been identified as a problem and therefore children are having to bring packed lunches, even those who qualify for free school meals; food vouchers have been promised but have not yet materialised.

It's certainly not a decision to be made lightly. But given that the first recorded incident in a school goes back as far as 2018 when the staff room ceiling collapsed in Singlewell Primary School in Kent – thankfully on a weekend when the building was empty – there’s been five years to plan for this. Parents and the general public need answers, transparency and a cohesive plan to tackle this so they can feel reassured.

Of course, daily parenting is full of calculated risks. Is my kid ready to scale to the top of the climbing frame for the first time? Will they choke if I stop quartering and then halving their grapes? Is it a fever that will break overnight with a spoon of Calpol or should I take my son to A&E? But when we send our children to school, while we understand there will always be unknowns, we trust our children will be safe.

I say crumbling concrete has not been on my mind before but this isn’t strictly true. This is, in fact, not my first powdery brush with collapsing schools.

As a teen, in the early 90s, the ceiling of my French classroom in my North Lanarkshire high school entirely caved in. Unfortunately, we were all in that classroom learning about French verbs at the time.

When it happened, I was at the back with my pal Gordon, who had a shock of orange hair and an enthusiasm for Meatloaf surpassed by only my own, both of us willfully not uttering ‘Je’, ‘Tu’ or ‘Il’.

Then, there was a mighty creaking, cracking sound and the whole ceiling came down on our heads. Luckily, the concrete was soft and sodden, having been absorbing leaky roof water that had drip-dropped into buckets by our desks, for as long as I’d been at the school.

No one was hurt, in fact we were simply ushered out to another room where we brushed the debris off our grey school jumpers and Miss Pascal shakily continued teaching us about conjugation.

I only remember being delighted to have been at the centre of the drama as I retold the story over a packet of Space Invaders in the yard but the fact is, it could have been a tragedy. It could have been multiple tragedies. Sure, it was a different time, but you’d hope things might have improved in three decades.

Colin Tait stated, again in Scottish Construction Now that, ‘It is surprising that this has suddenly become an issue, as the failure mechanisms of RAAC panels have long been discussed and on the radar of structural engineers’.

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Additionally, it seems as early as February this year, NHS Scotland issued a Safety Action Notice warning health boards that RAAC planks ‘are considered relatively weak and prone to degradation over time,’ and may be liable to ‘catastrophic failure without warning’.

The Scottish Government have claimed that they're going to do ‘desk-based’ research for schools but the hospitals in particular require more invasive inspections with the First Minister stating, ‘It was important to do the desk-based review, but it’s also fair to say that where NHS sites, in particular, feel there needs to be a physical investigation, then there will be a physical investigation if that’s required.’

I have to wonder why these were not done for schools, spearheaded by either local authorities or schools themselves, during the summer holidays without disruption in term-time when there has apparently been awareness of this problem for months if not years.

Ultimately, though, this is not just about crumbling concrete, it’s also about crumbling infrastructure of support for families too. Because the school closures will mean teachers stretched beyond their limits, schools with no extra resources to navigate the unexpected, and parents facing an unaffordable childcare crisis.

I feel for the families in Scotland having to make the decision of whether or not to send their children to school with very little information to go on. It's a calculated risk, but one no parent should have to make.