A school has been forced to shut "significant areas" of its building for days amid fears over “unsafe” concrete.

The Coopers’ Company and Coborn School, in St Mary’s Lane, Upminster, is one of the schools that has reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in its structure.

It has closed large parts of the site and is asking students to learn from home as there is not enough room for all year groups to be on the school site.

A letter from headteacher Sue Hay was sent to parents on Friday (September 1), explaining that the school “has been working hard to mitigate the presence of RAAC” since the last academic year using the Department for Education’s (DfE) guidance.

The closure comes after more than 100 schools were ordered to shut buildings by the DfE on September 1 until new safety measures are put in place.

Schools minister Nick Gibb said the collapse of a beam at a school that had been considered safe had sparked “an urgent rethink” on whether buildings with RAAC could stay open.

Ms Hay’s letter echoed this, adding that the DfE has changed its guidance on the management of RAAC.

The Dfe, she said, is now advising that “further mitigations” be installed.

As a result, the school has reportedly closed “significant areas of the school” from September 1 to ensure the safety of students and staff.

Ms Hay said: “Unfortunately, this will cause some unavoidable disruption to students’ education. We are working to ensure that the impact on students is kept to an absolute minimum.

“However, as so many areas of the school are closed, we are unable to accommodate all year groups in school next week. Some year groups will therefore have remote/online learning next week.”

The new arrangements, she revealed in the letter, involved shutting the building to all students on September 4 and 5.

Years 7, 11 and 12 students will be allowed to enter the building on September 7 and 8, while rest of the pupils will be learning remotely. Years 7 and 12 pupils will also be going into the school on Wednesday (September 6) in addition.

Ms Hay added that the timing of this decision, at the start of the autumn term, is “far from ideal” but the step had to be taken out of an “abundance of caution”.

She said: “I expect to have further updates early next week and will of course keep you informed throughout. Our priority is to return all students to school, safely, as soon as possible.”

Havering Council had told the Recorder on September 1, that no council-run schools were found to contain RAAC in its inspections, but there could be other independent academies and schools in the borough that were built with the material.

A council spokesperson clarified that Coopers' Coborn is a voluntary-aided school, which means the land and property is not owned by the council. 

Therefore, she said, the responsibility to conduct RAAC checks sits with the school's trust.

She added: “It is clearly a difficult situation for our children and young people, and we hope it can be quickly resolved.  

“All we can do as a local authority is to direct those affected non-local authority and academy schools to where they can get help and support.”