Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh council had 'no option' over schools closure

Damage at Oxgangs Primary School Image copyright Scott Arthur
Image caption Oxgangs Primary School in Edinburgh was damaged during Storm Gertrude

City of Edinburgh Council leader Andrew Burns has said his authority had 'no option' but to close schools over safety concerns.

Seventeen schools in the city are to be closed indefinitely from Monday.

The schools were all built as part of the city's private finance programme.

Galliford Try, which in 2014 acquired the company which built the four schools closed last month, has now said it supports the closures while investigations take place.

Councillor Burns told BBC Radio Scotland the Edinburgh Schools Partnership, which operates the buildings, had told the council last week that the schools were safe.

Mr Burns said that advice changed late on Friday afternoon.

A spokeswoman for Galliford Try, which acquired Miller Construction in 2014, said: "We support the council's precautionary closures of those buildings that were also part of the PPP programme while further investigations take place.

"We will continue to work with our design team and all the stakeholders involved to remedy any issue that may arise during this further investigation as soon as possible."

'Extremely disappointed'

Mr Burns said: "I'm extremely disappointed that the Edinburgh Schools Partnership have not been able to give us confirmation that the schools are structurally safe to open on Monday.

"We've been left with no option other than to close the schools on a precautionary basis."

Image caption City of Edinburgh Council leader Andrew Burns

He added: "On Tuesday we were written to by the Edinburgh Schools Partnership and told that the buildings were safe for occupancy.

"Than on Friday late afternoon into early evening we received a subsequent letter saying that they were withdrawing that confirmation."

Mr Burns said although the council would to find space in the rest of the schools to accommodate the 9000 pupils affected, it was likely that some would have to stay at home.

He said it appeared the fault uncovered at Oxgangs primary yesterday is not related to outside walls, which was the previous cause for concern.

Urgent meeting

The Scottish government is to hold a meeting of its resilience committee to look at what it can do to assist.

Education Secretary Angela Constance said: "The safety of children, young people and staff in our schools is paramount, and I recognise the concern of parents.

"I am reassured by the prompt action taken by Edinburgh City Council."

She added: "It is too early to assess any wider implications for schools in other parts of Scotland.

"However, Scottish government officials have written to all local authorities this weekend to ask them to carry out any necessary checks on their own estate as soon as possible.

"We understand that all of the affected buildings in Edinburgh were completed over ten years ago. We will ensure that, as more information about the nature of the issue in Edinburgh is established, this is passed on to other local authorities to assist them in this process."

Wall collapse

The problems were first uncovered in January when a wall at Oxgangs Primary collapsed during high winds.

Three other schools were later closed after inspections revealed problems with the way walls had been built.

The schools were all expected to re-open after the Easter break.

But City of Edinburgh Council said a fresh concerns had been raised during remedial work at Oxgangs Primary on Friday.

It said Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), which constructed the buildings and manages them on behalf of the council, was unable to give assurances that buildings built under the Public Private Partnership 1 (PPP1) were safe.

These include 17 schools - 10 primaries, five secondaries and two additional support needs schools - and the Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre.


School closures - timeline

Image copyright Annemarie Pearson
  • 29 January - high winds during Storm Gertrude lead to a wall collapsing at Oxgangs Primary
  • School re-opens a few days later
  • 16 March - Oxgangs Primary closes again after safety inspection reveals problems with the way the wall was built
  • 18 March - three more schools built under Public Private Partnership 1 closed following safety inspections
  • 8 April - All 17 schools and a community centre built under same private finance initiative closed indefinitely

A Scottish government spokesman said: "Clearly the safety of children and young people in our schools is paramount.

"We are working closely with Edinburgh city council to understand the issue and to provide any support necessary to minimise the impact on pupils."

The council said the latest problems identified were not "directly related" to the original issues that forced the closure of Oxgangs Primary.

The schools affected are Braidburn School, Broomhouse Primary, Castleview Primary, Craigour Park Primary, Craigmount High, Craigroyston Primary, Drummond Community High, Firrhill High, Forthview Primary, Gracemount High, Oxgangs Primary School, Pirniehill Primary, Rowanfield, Royal High, St David's Primary, St Joseph's Primary and St Peters RC Primary.

The council said it was too early to say when the schools would re-open but it would update parents next week.

In the meantime it recommended that they make childcare arrangements.

Image caption Part of the wall at Oxgangs Primary was blown down

The authority said it would try to put in place alternative schooling provision with priority given to special needs pupils and those due to sit exams next month.

Updates will be posted on the council website.

Schools in Glasgow and Fife were inspected last week, and both local authorities said schools would be open as normal on Monday.

However Glasgow council has decided to undertake more surveys next week in light of the recent news.

Signed in 2001, Edinburgh's Public Private Partnership deal for schools was worth £360m.

In return for 30 years of fixed payments from the council, a private consortium designed, built and managed the schools.

The four Edinburgh schools closed last month were all built by Miller Construction, which was acquired by Galliford Try in 2014.

Inspections have been taking place in Glasgow, Fife and Inverclyde of other schools built by Miller Construction.

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