Pupil's wall death prompts checks across Edinburgh schools
- 2 April 2014
- From the section Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland
Structural checks are to be carried out on schools across Edinburgh, after a 12-year-old girl died when a "free-standing wall" collapsed on her.
The girl, named locally as Keane Wallis-Bennett, was fatally injured at Liberton High School on Tuesday.
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond promised a rigorous investigation into the accident.
The city council said it would survey all similar walls in its schools as a "precaution".
Prime Minister David Cameron described the incident as a ''shocking accident'' and said any lessons would have to be learnt.
Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, he said "This was an absolutely shocking accident that people will have seen across the country. And their hearts will go out to the family, and all those involved at the school.
"Clearly the lessons will have to be learnt to make sure tragic accidents like this can't happen again."
The free-standing modesty wall served as a partition to give pupils privacy when showering in gym changing rooms.
In a statement on Tuesday night, the City of Edinburgh Council said the wall had been checked within the past two years and no problems identified.
Pupils were sent home after the incident, which happened just before 10:00 BST on Tuesday, and the school is to remain closed for the rest of the week.
Building surveyors will carry out a full check at the school before pupils return after the Easter break.
Police will meet officials from the Health and Safety Executive later to discuss who will investigate the incident.
Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill, who is an Edinburgh MSP, said Liberton High School has had "difficulties with fragmenting and fraying to the fabric" of the building.
But he said he did not believe there were problems with health and safety at the school, or that squeezes on the council's education budget were hindering school renovation projects.
He told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "I think the council are doing a good job. They are working their way through the school estate. Many schools are being replaced, particular actions were taken in every school where there was a requirement.
"The city council has always put the safety of pupils paramount. That is why I welcome their review to ensure that the situation is safe in every school.
"There are challenges, they do have to prioritise, but I do believe that they have been doing the correct job."
Mr MacAskill said it had been a "double blow" for the school after the death of fellow pupil Jamie Skinner, 13, who collapsed while playing football for Tynecastle FC at the end of last year.
Floral tributes have been left outside the school, with one bunch including a card that read: "Rest in peace Keane. God has gained another angel."
One pupil at the school, 13-year-old Devon Blyth, told the BBC she had warned a teacher some months ago that there was an unstable wall in the girl's changing room near the old gym - where the incident took place.
Programme of repairs
In February, Edinburgh City Council was fined £8,000 after a pupil received serious injuries when she fell down a lift shaft at Liberton High School, in December 2011.
The school, which has about 650 pupils, was built in 1959, and the PE accommodation was refurbished in the mid-1980s.
A report prepared for the council in December 2013 recommended a programme of repairs to the school buildings, although there was no indication of structural work being required.
A council statement on Tuesday evening said: "A full survey of all our schools, including Liberton High School, was carried out in 2012/13 and no concerns with this wall were identified.
"However, as a precaution, specialist council building services staff will be surveying all similar walls in schools where we know that they exist."
A council spokesman added: "As a further precaution, a full survey will be carried out on Liberton High School in the coming days before the main school building re-opens to pupils."
Gillian Cameron, 46, a parent, said: "Someone needs to stand up and be accountable for this.
"It is not the headmaster's fault, he's trying to run a school with hardly any money.
"That's what is annoying when you have a child at school, it's the lack of money, we can't afford this, we can't afford that, so they build a tram centre that nobody wants, nobody needs and nobody can afford.
"It makes you angry. They need to prioritise. A 12-year-old child is not here any more. Did it have to take that, for people to say that school is not safe?"
The chaplaincy team at the school is holding a vigil following the death.
The Church of Scotland's Liberton Northfield church will be open in the afternoon and evening as a safe place for pupils, young people and the local community to go and reflect.
They will have the opportunity to sign a book of condolence and light candles.
The Rev Cammy Mackenzie, who is a minister at Moredun and Gilmerton and a member of the chaplaincy team serving Liberton and Gilmerton High Schools, said: "We recognise the impact this is having on the community and we will be there for anyone who needs us.
"The church will remain open for as many days as it is required."
Meanwhile, Highland Council said it had ordered checks at all 209 of its schools following Keane's death.
The council said it was also liaising with High Life Highland to arrange for similar checks in leisure centres.