Edinburgh school wall demolished after checks

Balloos and Chinese lanterns released in memroy of Keane Wallis-Bennett fill the sky. Picture: Scott Taylor
Balloos and Chinese lanterns released in memroy of Keane Wallis-Bennett fill the sky. Picture: Scott Taylor
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A FREE-STANDING wall at a primary school in the Capital has been demolished after city-wide checks were carried out in the wake of the Liberton High tragedy.

The structure at Craiglockhart Primary was knocked down following emergency inspections at more than 200 city council properties – including all primary, secondary, special and nursery schools – to establish if there are walls similar to the one that collapsed and killed 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett at Liberton High on Tuesday.

Council bosses stressed there was no indication the wall at Craiglockhart Primary’s bike shed posed an immediate safety risk but said that because it did not serve an important or obvious purpose, they had decided to demolish it.

Evidence has also emerged that the condition of a growing number of schools in Midlothian is deteriorating, prompting political leaders to warn that a “two-tier” education system could emerge if council chiefs fail to improve the condition of the region’s most dilapidated classrooms.

Councillor Derek Milligan, leader of the Midlothian Labour group, said: “The most important thing is that a school, no matter where it is, is a safe place for children and their teachers.

“That needs to be the priority but, after that, I think the next priority should be replacing any C-rated buildings. I’m exceptionally worried at these results because we could end up with a two-tier education system.”

The Midlothian data shows the rating of five schools – Danderhall, Lasswade, St Luke’s RC and Mayfield primaries, and Mayfield nursery – slipped from B (satisfactory) to C (poor) between 2012 and 2013, with buildings at Penicuik High and Rosewell Primary graded C in both years.

And the condition of Newbattle High in Dalkeith is so bad that the entire campus has been rated D – meaning it is deemed at risk of failure – although education leaders plan to build a replacement by 2016.

As well as safety worries, Cllr Milligan said parents had complained to him repeatedly about the negative impact of weak repair and maintenance programmes on day-to-day learning.

“Quite often we have parents contacting us regarding the state of schools,” he said. “Desks have to be moved around because there’s leaking from roofs when maintenance work has to be done in schools – if you’re forced into having to do that when the kids are in school it can be very disruptive.

“Parents are more concerned about maintenance, or because the schools look so old and dilapidated. It seems some of the buildings built at the turn of the last century have fared much better than the ones built in the 1960s and 70s.”

His concerns were echoed by Cllr Peter De Vink, independent member for Midlothian East, who said he was “very exercised” about the issue.

He said: “I know that the officials have investigated it very carefully. I take it very seriously and we at the council will take it very seriously.

“Newbattle High is not all that old and I am assured by the officials that it is perfectly safe. But the fact is we are going to get a new school and that’s a good thing.”

Education chiefs in Midlothian stressed the majority of the region’s schools had been rated good or satisfactory and said they would work tirelessly to improve the most dilapidated campuses.

A spokeswoman said: “Maintenance building inspections of all our schools are carried out on a regular and ongoing basis.

“The maintenance teams also work very closely with our property and facilities service which have staff based in schools so issues are identified and tackled very quickly. However, obviously there’s heightened awareness as a result of the accident at Liberton.”

She said an extensive review conducted in partnership with the Scottish Government had confirmed that Newbattle High was the region’s only D-rated building, with plans for construction of a replacement campus by 2016 well under way, adding: “Until such time as the new building is complete we will continue to maintain the existing building to provide a safe and secure learning environment.”

WEST LOTHIAN

MOST West Lothian schools have passed the condition test with flying colours. Following the most recent survey of more than 80 sites, only two schools – Toronto and Woodmuir primaries – were rated poor. Education leaders in East Lothian said they were unable to provide similar data for their schools.

Crowds release balloons for tragic Keane

HUNDREDS of balloons and Chinese lanterns filled the sky above Edinburgh yesterday in a poignant display of grief.

They were released above Moredun playing fields in memory of tragic schoolgirl Keane Wallis-Bennett.

School friends and well-wishers, many of them carrying flowers, also gathered to light candles in memory of the popular Liberton High pupil.

Terry Wagstaff, 42, of Burdiehouse, lived close to Keane, and said: “This is a brilliant way to show respect for her.”

Reagan Brown, 12, of Guardwell Crescent, brought 15 candles to light in memory of her friend.

She said: “I have known her since nursery school. She was a nice girl, kind and caring.”

More than 300 people of all ages gathered to pay their respects, and Glen Wright, 12, of Hyvots, said she was here to support her friends and family.