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Tue June 22 2021

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Expert appointed for Edinburgh schools inquiry

20 Jun 16 The City of Edinburgh Council has selected architect and procurement expert John Cole to lead the independent inquiry into its recent school closures.

John Cole
John Cole

John Cole is former chief executive of the Health Estates Agency in Northern Ireland, where he was credited with seeking to improve the quality of design and construction through new procurement models.

Major infrastructure projects with which he is currently involved as an independent consultant include the delivery of a new £180m educational campus to provide six secondary schools on a single shared site in Omagh and the development of a new £600m paediatric hospital in Dublin. In both cases he was appointed by the respective Ministers in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland to bring his expertise to these projects.

It is expected that the Edinburgh inquiry will start in September once the schools are fully open and the contractual position with Edinburgh Schools Partnership, the PFI consortium responsible for the school buildings, has been sorted out.

City of Edinburgh Council chief executive Andrew Kerr said: “I am pleased to have brought on board an expert of John’s calibre to head this independent inquiry as he commands respect in both construction and procurement fields.

“His track record speaks for itself and I am sure parents and everyone else who has been affected by the issues over the past five months will take comfort from the extensive knowledge and experience that John brings to the role.

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“The clear and thorough terms of reference set out exactly what we are aiming to achieve through this inquiry. We want to find out what went wrong with these schools and are determined to see what lessons can be learned, not just here in Edinburgh but across Scotland and the UK.”

The city closed 17 newly-built schools earlier this year because of structural safety fears after a wall collapsed at a Oxgangs Primary School on January.

Four primary schools (Pirniehall, St David’s, Broomhouse and St Joseph’s) re-open today (Monday 20th June). Pupils from Rowanfield School return on Monday 27th June.

This follows the 900 pupils from Oxgangs and St Peter’s Primary Schools and Braidburn School who returned to their own schools last month, followed by Firrhill High School, which completely reopened on schedule earlier this month

The remaining primary schools – Craigour Park, Forthview, Craigroyston and Castleview – will be handed back during the summer break, as will Craigmount, Gracemount, Drummond and Royal High Schools, the council said.

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