Local schools to remain closed on Monday
Parents advised to make childcare arrangements for next week
Craigroyston, Forthview, Pirniehall and St David’s Primary Schools are among seventeen city schools which will all remain closed on Monday, the city council has announced.
The City of Edinburgh Council took the precautionary decision to close all of their PPP1 schools yesterday following advice from the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), the body responsible for building, managing and operating the estate on behalf of the local authority.
Remedial works taking place on Friday at Oxgangs Primary School uncovered new issues relating to the school’s construction and ESP’s technical experts were unable to give council officers sufficient guarantees that Oxgangs and other PPP1 schools are safe to open on Monday.
This was despite previous assurances from ESP that all schools would reopen as normal following the Easter Holidays. They have written this afternoon to the Council’s Chief executive to apologise.
Council Leader Councillor 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.”
The premises will be closed on Monday and parents will be given regular updates over the coming week regarding latest developments. Some premises may open earlier as the results of detailed structural surveys come back.
Contingency arrangements are being actively considered by Council staff and developments will be updated to parents on Monday.
Parents should consider childcare arrangements for next week.
The premises that will be initially closed from Monday are as follows:
Schools: 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.
Other: Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre.
While many schoolchildren will welcome an extension to their Easter holidays, the news causes headaches for hundreds of parents and carers.
One local mum said: “I have two bairns at Forthview and another at nursery and I work part-time. We always have to do a lot of juggling, especially at holiday time, and to have this sprung on us at the last minute is a nightmare.
“My partner and I have already taken time off work while the schools have been off and now it means cancelling more shifts, which will cost us money we can’t really afford to lose. We’re lucky to have family to help out but I feel bad about asking my mum to do more than she’s already doing – it doesn’t seem fair.
“If this drags on for any length of time it’s going to be tough for a lot of local families and I feel really sorry for the ones who don’t have the same family support as we do. I don’t know how they will be able to cope. We parents need information – we need to to be told what’s going on so we can try to plan things.”
A Green candidate for the Scottish elections has hit out angrily at news that 17 Edinburgh schools and a community centre are to stay closed on Monday rather than re-opening after the school holidays.
On Thursday the council said that all schools would re-open on Monday but it now says that it cannot get assurances from the consortium which manages the PPP schools that the schools are safe.
Andy Wightman, Scottish Green MSP candidate for Lothian, said: “This is absolutely staggering. As of Monday thousands of children and young people are going to be thrown into confusion and their families into deep anxiety because the private consortium which built and runs those ‘PPP’ schools cannot guarantee pupil safety.
“It’s well known that Edinburgh has a school repair problem, but it was believed to be in those schools which were decades old. It is an utter disgrace to discover that new schools are beset by the same problems, as a result of shoddy workmanship.
“A full scale inquiry is needed into this fiasco, first and foremost for the schools immediately affected, but also, more generally for this whole set of arrangements for building and maintaining public buildings.”
The schools, which opened in 2003, were built through the controversial Public Private Partnership PPP private finance initiative PFI scheme. Despite concerns expressed over the funding mechanism at the time the new school buildings were widely welcomed.
Speaking back then Councillor Rev Ewan Aitken, Executive Member for Youth Strategy and Education, said: “I’m sure everyone will agree that the project we are now taking forward is a great improvement on our original plans.
“We should also recognise the success achieved already through PPP and our Smart Schools Project. In an incredibly short period of time (two years) we have seen eight new primary schools, two new and two refurbished secondary schools, a new special school and a new community centre open.”
Then Director of Education Roy Jobson said: “We have achieved not only the best value for money for the Council but also school buildings of the highest possible quality. As part of the negotiations we explored all the alternative options and I firmly believe we have achieved the best deal through this contract. Our negotiations on the finer details of the contract will continue to ensure we achieve value for money.”