Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Council aims to have all Edinburgh pupils 'back by next week'

Gracemount High School
Image caption Inspections at Gracemount High School found faults

It is hoped all pupils affected by the closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh will be back in class by next Tuesday, the council has said.

More details of contingency plans following building safety fears have been announced.

A phased return will see S4, S5 and S6 high school pupils and two of the affected primary schools go back later this week.

Plans for S1, S2 and S3 have still to be confirmed.

A total of 3,300 out of 7,600 pupils now have school arrangements in place, however many will not return to their own schools but will be taught by their own teachers in alternative buildings.

The City of Edinburgh Council has said:

  • Pupils from Oxgangs and St Peter's will use the alternative arrangements that were in place before the Easter break
  • Craigroyston Primary pupils will be relocated to Craigroyston Community High School on a phased basis. P4 - P7 will have arrangements in place from Friday 15 April. P1 - P3 will return on Tuesday 19 April
  • Castleview Primary pupils will be relocated to Castlebrae High School from Tuesday 19 April
  • S4, S5 and S6 pupils at Gracemount will go to Liberton High School from Wednesday
  • Craigmount's S4, S5 and S6 pupils will have to wait until Thursday before they go to Tynecastle High
  • Pupils will be taught by teachers from their own schools to ensure some continuity ahead of their exams
  • Older years at Drummond, Firhill and The Royal High will return to their own schools on Wednesday as their buildings were only partly refurbished by the public private partnership project
Image caption Repair work is being carried out at Oxgangs Primary

'Huge logistical exercise'

Next Monday 18 April is an Edinburgh bank holiday so the aim is to have all pupils affected by the safety closures back in "places of education" by Tuesday 19 April.

Chief executive Andrew Kerr said: "We have now put in place alternative arrangements for 3,300 pupils, including as a priority all senior pupils in S4, S5 and S6 sitting exams in the near future, which has been a huge logistical exercise.

"Work is continuing to identify alternative options for other primary, special and S1 to S3 pupils which we will communicate to parents as soon as we have further information.

"I fully recognise the significant inconvenience to parents caused by these closures and I want to thank them for their patience as we continue to work through this issue."

While many pupils across the city returned to classes on Monday after the Easter break, about 7,600 from five secondaries, 10 primaries and two additional support needs schools were unable to attend classes because their school remained closed over safety fears.

Concerns were raised about the need to accommodate senior pupils who are due to sit exams soon and have coursework and assessments to complete.

What's the problem with the schools?

Image caption Inspectors have been assessing Gracemount High School

The problems were first uncovered in January when a wall at Oxgangs Primary collapsed during high winds.

Further closures were prompted on Friday after workers repairing serious structural issues at the primary found "further serious defects" with the building.

The city council said urgent work would need to be carried out on at least four of the schools: two high schools Gracemount and Craigmount, and two primaries - Oxgangs and St Peter's.

The initial problem was discovered with wall ties, which hold the outer and inner walls together, at Oxgangs Primary School.

An additional issue on Friday was then found with head ties, which hold the top of the walls to the steel roof frame, at all four schools.

In total, 10 primaries, five secondaries and two additional support needs schools have been shut, as well as a neighbourhood centre.

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

A first phase was built by a combination of Miller Construction and Amey - with seven built by other contractors.

A second phase of four schools were all built by Miller.

Miller Construction was later acquired by Galliford Try in 2014, who also took contractual responsibility for the second phase schools - now found to require emergency work to remedy defects.

The firm said: "Galliford Try takes its role as a responsible contractor very seriously and the safety of the pupils and staff is paramount."

Image caption Structural surveys on the schools affected are continuing

Award-winning architect Malcolm Fraser warned of the scale of the challenge facing the City of Edinburgh Council to keep on top of safety issues at the schools.

Speaking on BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme, he said it was extremely difficult to pinpoint all structural issues.

He said: "The issue is, when everything is covered up, it's very hard to tell where these other things and other problems might lie.

"So when you do look at political demands for why haven't all schools been checked etc, you almost have to take a school to bits to find out that these issues are there.

"And you don't really understand that there is a problem until something catastrophic goes wrong as it has at Oxgangs, which has led all these other inspections to happen."

Many parents have also expressed anger and frustration at having to arrange extra childcare at such short notice.

Edinburgh University, the Scottish Parliament, community groups, venues and private sector companies have all offered help.

The local authority confirmed that structural surveys would continue to be carried out this week.

Meanwhile, every other Scottish council has carried out, or is going to carry out, surveys of school buildings that could be affected.

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