Jessica Hill

Schools Week

Jessica Hill was the first journalist to reveal to the general public how reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) was ‘a ticking time bomb’ making school buildings ‘liable to collapse’. She brought the scale of the danger to an even wider audience when she persuaded The Guardian to run a feature, based on conversations with structural engineers, on the likely presence of RAAC across the public estate – including nurseries, shops and leisure centres. The story led to the sudden closure of over 100 schools while the presence of RAAC was investigated.

Hill, who tells specialist stories of critical national interest, exposed other shocking issues. For example, rigorous analysis of government and council data revealed an alarming rise in the numbers of children not being educated, partly because of a broken special educational needs service. Another piece showed how teacher supply agencies are making millions of pounds while sending schools unqualified and inexperienced staff – and she caught them in the act by posing as an unqualified teacher herself.

Hill’s RAAC story “led the agenda and was followed by every major news outlet,” noted the judges. “Jessica’s tenacity exposed a scandal which spread from schools to other public buildings and even to parliament.”