Council facing massive schools repair bill

Parents at Bruntsfield Primary were not surprised to hear of the hefty repair bill. Picture: Jon Savage
Parents at Bruntsfield Primary were not surprised to hear of the hefty repair bill. Picture: Jon Savage
17
Have your say

NEARLY one in ten schools in Edinburgh have been rated as needing urgent and major repair – with education chiefs admitting the Capital faces a “scary” bill running to tens of millions to patch them up.

The admission comes as city leaders prepare to publish a landmark survey of 123 primary, secondary and special schools which will confirm the huge sums needed to fix Edinburgh’s crumbling classrooms.

It is understood one Edinburgh primary alone faces a repair bill of between £600,000 and £800,000.

According to new figures, nine per cent of Edinburgh’s primaries and secondaries – around ten schools – have been rated as requiring “major repair work immediately” or as unsafe.

In the 2012-13 session, the council spent £15.2 million on schools maintenance.

An earlier probe into the state of city campuses in 2009 uncovered a £37m bill for tackling the Capital’s chronic repairs backlog.

But the spending requirement could rise substantially as education bosses complete their new survey, which will be the most comprehensive ever and help bring about a step-change in the city’s approach to schools upkeep.

One senior education source admitted the Capital faced a battle to bring all schools up to scratch and said: “The final figure will be scary.”

And parents and opposition leaders today slammed the schools survey as too little, too late for “neglected” classrooms that had waited months, and sometimes years, for desperately needed maintenance work on rickety floorboards, drafty windows and rotting ceilings.

Amanda Campbell, parent council member at Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC) and previously parent council chair at Sighthill Primary, said: “The council have been told by so many schools that we needed repairs and they’ve finally taken it on board.

“A school can’t be waiting two years for repairs to be done.”

Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the city’s Greens, said: “Many of our older primary schools, like Craiglockhart, are in need of hundreds of thousands of pounds of investment to make them fit for the future. The severity and urgency of the situation cannot be 
underestimated.

“The council is still reviewing condition surveys, many of which are now over a year old. There is a real danger that surveys will be out of date before any action is taken.

“What we need now is a live maintenance programme that is flexible enough to react quickly to emergencies and prevent our schools deteriorating further.”

Education leaders said 
continuing pressure on council funding meant an exact and up-to-date analysis of where repairs are needed was more important than ever.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “We are currently carrying out an extensive condition survey across Edinburgh’s schools in order to get a clear picture of what repairs and improvement works are necessary.

“Starting this process was one of the first things I did when I was appointed education convener as given the squeeze on local authority funding it is absolutely vital that we prioritise repairs effectively, and target funding to where it is needed most.

“When the results are published in December we will be seeking to bring forward a targeted investment programme designed to ensure that the money is spent wisely and where it is really needed.”

Parents not surprised by scale of problem

ANGRY parents at Bruntsfield Primary, who had to wait two years before education bosses committed to fixing its crumbling gym hall roof, said they were not surprised to learn of the mammoth repairs bill.

The school was forced to close the hall to pupils after chunks of cornicing fell suddenly at the beginning of the 2011-12 session following years of water ingress.

Parent council leaders called on Scottish education ministers to ensure the city council was not deprived of repairs cash.

Chair Antonis Giannopoulos said: “Schools have to be safeguarded – that is of paramount importance.”

Former pupil leaves Edinburgh Academy £16m in will

WHILE city council bosses scramble to find essential school repairs money, one of the Capital’s top independent institutions is swimming in cash after receiving £16 million from a former pupil.

Delighted leaders at Edinburgh Academy said the “extraordinary” legacy payment from entrepreneur Eric Stevenson, who died last year at the age of 88, would be channelled into the school’s buildings and bursary provision.

The money, to be managed by the newly established Eric H Stevenson Charitable Trust, is the biggest legacy of its type ever received in Scotland.

By the end of this year, trust bosses expect to have funds invested of £14m, with the remainder due over the next 24 months.

They said Mr Stevenson – who left the Academy in 1940 and, in 1969, moved to Singapore where he founded fishing fly giant Highland Flies – had always maintained an interest in his former school and was a regular and generous donor.

Marco Longmore, rector of Edinburgh Academy, said: “His commitment was based on an understanding that the education he received equipped him for the many diverse challenges that he faced throughout his very successful and varied life.

“It is with the greatest of pride that we received news of his tremendous generosity and commitment to his former school.”