Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Edinburgh schools: Uncertainty remains over pupils

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Media caption17 sites were shut last Friday amid fears over the standard of their construction.

Edinburgh council has said some of the high school pupils who have still not returned to classes because of closures could be back in lessons on Thursday.

However uncertainty remains over the arrangements for most S1-S3 pupils from other high schools.

More than 2,000 pupils whose schools had been closed because of safety concerns have returned to classrooms.

Priority was given to secondary pupils in fourth, fifth and sixth year who are just weeks away from sitting exams.

All primary pupils are due to return by next week.

The council's latest update said:

  • All S1, S2 and S3 pupils can return to Drummond High on Thursday morning
  • S3 pupils can resume at Royal High on Thursday.

There is still no word on younger pupils at Gracemount, Craigmount, Firrhill and the very youngest at The Royal High.

A total of 17 schools in the city did not reopen on Monday after the Easter break.

About 7,600 pupils were affected by the closures with five secondaries, 10 primaries and two additional support needs schools shut due to concerns over structural issues.

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

City of Edinburgh Council said some families who rely on free school meals had approached city food banks as a result of schools being closed.

It said money from the Scottish Welfare Fund would be made available to families in need, distributed to affected families directly, via school head teachers.

The care inspectorate is also allowing some child care providers to extend the number of youngsters they can look after during the crisis.

Image caption Children have started to return to school under the council's contingency plans

It said services such as childminders and after school clubs can seek permission to expand places or hours where that is safe to do so.

One centre, North Edinburgh Childcare, has been able to increase its hours to offer working parents childcare during the day for pupils whose schools are still shut.

The council said on Tuesday evening it hoped to have all pupils back in "places of education" by next Tuesday - Monday 18 April is a bank holiday in the city.

Senior pupils from four of the high schools, as well as children from two primaries returned to classes on Wednesday morning.

Some went go back to their own classrooms but others were transfered to alternative schools where they will be taught by their own teachers.

The arrangements put in place by the City of Edinburgh Council were:

  • S4, S5 and S6 pupils at Gracemount going to Liberton High School from Wednesday
  • Craigmount's S4, S5 and S6 pupils going to Tynecastle High from Thursday
  • Senior pupils at Drummond, Firrhill and The Royal High return to their own schools on Wednesday as their buildings were only partly refurbished by the PPP project
  • Pupils from Oxgangs and St Peter's use plans that were in place before the Easter break
  • Craigroyston Primary relocated to Craigroyston Community High School with P4-P7 going back on Friday and P1-P3 returning on Tuesday 19 April
  • Castleview Primary relocated to Castlebrae High School from Tuesday 19 April

What's the problem with the schools?

Image caption Inspections are being carried out at all the Edinburgh PPP schools

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 has 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.

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

With about 5,000 pupils facing a third day off school on Wednesday, parents were also continuing to express anger and frustration at the cost and hassle involved in arranging extra childcare.

Offers of support to the council to accommodate pupils affected have come from organisations including Hibernian Football Club, the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh University and NHS Lothian.

Image copyright Getty Images

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