Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh schools may be shut for 'longer term'

Workers on site at Oxgangs Primary School Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Safety inspections have been carried out at the school affected by the closures

The leader of City of Edinburgh Council has said some of the 17 school buildings closed over safety fears could be shut in the "longer term".

Andrew Burns was answering a question over whether the schools would be closed until the summer.

The council has confirmed construction defects have been discovered at all 17 schools built under the PPP1 project.

The problems, identified after a school wall collapsed, relate to missing ties used to support building walls.

Five secondaries, 10 primaries and two additional support needs schools were shut due to concerns over structural issues.

All of the schools, which are about 10 years old, were constructed under the same public private partnership contract.

About 7,600 pupils were initially affected and there are still no plans for how to get 3,200 children back in to classrooms.

Most will have to attend different schools until their own is declared safe.

The council said there were still no plans in place to accommodate pupils from five primary schools and S1 and S2 students at Firrhill and The Royal High School.

S1, S2 and S3 students at Gracemount and Craigroyston have also not yet been placed in temporary school accommodation.

The council pays £1.5m a month to Edinburgh Schools Partnership to maintain and look after 17 school buildings in the city as part of a £540m 30-year-contract.

The council is clawing back a "large percentage" of that money while it has no use of 14 schools that have been completely closed over the safety fears.

Three schools - The Royal High, Drummond and Firrhill - are being partially used, as they were refurbished during the PPP work and not completely rebuilt.

Speaking on BBC Scotland's Good Morning Scotland, Mr Burns said the buildings were not inspected by the council when their construction was completed.

Mr Burns said the private sector consortium that built them- Edinburgh Schools Partnership - self-certified that they met "all the relevant building standards".

The council leader said: "Under the regulations in place at the time, this is a really important point, under the regulations that were in place at the time Edinburgh Schools Partnership and its agents self-certified to the council, as they were entitled to do so, that the buildings complied with all the relevant building standards."

He added: "During the construction there was ongoing involvement from the council but the self certification process that was there at the time, quite rightly, quite legally, quite properly, Edinburgh Schools Partnership self-certified to the council that the buildings were compliant with all the relevant building standards.

"So the responsibility lies with the schools partnership."

Image caption The problems were first uncovered after a wall collapsed at Oxgangs Primary during high winds in January

About 7,600 pupils missed the first two days of the new term following the Easter break and thousands will not be back in classrooms at any school until next week.

The council announced on Wednesday that practical exams, such as oral language tests, due to take place at the five high schools affected by the closure had been postponed.

Mr Burns told BBC Scotland: "Early indications are that there is evidence of some fault at all the schools but it's too early to say how that will physically impact in terms of the length of closure for each of the individual 17 schools."

The Labour councillor added: "Some schools will be affected in a small way and other schools might be affected in the longer term."

Mr Burns said the money paid to the Edinburgh Schools Partnership was being "clawed back".

He said: "We will be making sure that that money is reclaimed. That will be absolutely the cost to Edinburgh Schools Partnership and will not cost the Edinburgh tax payer a penny."

The majority of the 2,000 pupils preparing for exams at the five high schools affected resumed lessons on Wednesday.

Senior pupils from three secondaries - Drummond High, Firrhill High and The Royal High School - were able to return to their usual building as they only had partial refurbishments as part of the PPP project.

Older Gracemount students were asked to report to Liberton High School.

On Thursday, S1-S3 pupils returned to Drummond High School and S4-S6 pupils from Craigmont High went to Tynecastle High School.

S3 pupils from Firrhill High and The Royal High School also returned to classes.

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