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Edinburgh shuts schools because of structural safety fears

9 Apr 16 Edinburgh City Council has closed 17 of its newly built schools after the body responsible for the buildings revealed that it was unable to guarantee their structural safety.

Brickwork fell off Oxgangs Primary School in January
Brickwork fell off Oxgangs Primary School in January

Concerns first arose when brickwork collapsed at Oxgangs Primary School during a storm in January. The school was built in 2005 by Miller Construction under a public-private partnership initiative, PPP1. Four other schools built by Miller at the same time were subsequently closed for precautionary inspections.

Miller Construction was taken over by Galliford Try in 2014.

Edinburgh City Council has now decided to shut more schools over safety fears. In a statement, the council said: “We have taken the precautionary decision to close all of our PPP1 premises from Monday 11th April 2016… The decision has been taken after remedial works taking place on Friday 8th April at Oxgangs Primary School uncovered new issues relating to the school’s construction.”

The schools were supposed to reopen after the Easter holidays on 11th April but parents have been advised to make alternative childcare arrangements for the foreseeable future.

“The Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), who manage and operate the schools on behalf of the council, and their technical experts were unable today (8th April) to give the council sufficient guarantee that the schools are safe to open on Monday,” the council said.

A spokesperson for Edinburgh Schools Partnership said: “While carrying out remedial works on Friday afternoon (8th April), a new issue came to light at two PPP1 schools – Oxgangs and St Peter’s – relating to an absence of header ties in sections of the building.

“The standard of construction carried out by the building contractor is completely unacceptable and we are now undertaking full structural surveys on all PPP1 schools to determine whether this issue is more widespread. For the safety of all pupils and staff, the schools will be closed while this work is underway.

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“Edinburgh Schools Partnership will accept full financial responsibility for investigating and resolving these issues to ensure that each and every PPP1 school undergoes all necessary remedial work. We would like to apologise to parents and pupils for all of the uncertainty and inconvenience caused, and give our sincere assurances that we will fix these issues.”

The schools being closed are: Braidburn, 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. Also being closed for checks are Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre and Howdenhall Secure Unit.

Council leader Andrew Burns said: “Edinburgh Schools Partnership have today been unable to give the council sufficient guarantee that the schools and other premises are safe to open on Monday. Clearly we have every right to expect these schools to have been built to a good standard and in accordance with industry practice. We now know this isn’t the case. ESP have let the council down but more importantly they have the let children, parents and staff of this city down.

“We have today alerted the Scottish government to our concerns.

“The safety of children and our staff is our top priority and we’re simply not willing to take any risks. As such we have no option but to close these schools and Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre.

“We fully recognise the significant inconvenience to parents caused by these closures. However I am sure everyone will understand why we have taken these steps. We will keep parents and carers updated over the coming week as more information becomes available.”

Repair work at Oxgangs has been carried out by Amey, one of the shareholders of Edinburgh Schools Partnership. Structural engineers from Will Rudd Davidson have been providing technicla advice.

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