Edinburgh schools shut for 500 days over building fears

The closures prompted a widespread outcry last year when initial concerns over external walls at Oxgangs Primary lead to widespread structural issues coming to light.  Picture: Julie Bull
The closures prompted a widespread outcry last year when initial concerns over external walls at Oxgangs Primary lead to widespread structural issues coming to light. Picture: Julie Bull
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Schools in Scotland’s capital were closed for almost 500 days last year as a result of PFI-related safety fears, new figures have revealed.

Eleven of the schools affected in Edinburgh faced seven-week closures, according to data released under Freedom of Information. The schools, built under the controversial Private Finance Initiative (PFI), were closed for 492 days in total, with 7,000 pupils forced into temporary accommodation as they prepared for exams.

The SNP said the disruption is the legacy of the PFI scheme which funded their construction under the then Labour/Lib Dem regime.

The closures prompted a widespread outcry last year when initial concerns over external walls at Oxgangs Primary lead to widespread structural issues coming to light.

Edinburgh Pentlands MSP Gordon MacDonald, who uncovered the data, said: “It was absolutely right to close these schools while their safety was guaranteed – but the closures exposed Labour’s ill-thought out PFI deals as a disaster. Not only were these PFI deals a massive drain on public funds, they resulted in pupils being sent to learn in substandard buildings.”

MacDonald said the SNP, trade unions and independent academics had issued “repeated warnings” over the quality of the buildings and the level of profits being made by private companies.

He added: “Labour’s dodgy deals played fast and loose with public finances, put education at risk and left others to clean up their mess.”

But a Labour spokesman accused the SNP of “playing politics” over school safety while cutting council budgets.

The problems emerged a year ago when bricks were dislodged from a wall at Oxgangs Primary in the south-west of the capital. It re-opened a few days later, but subsequent inspections found major concerns over an external wall built ten years ago, and 17 schools in total were shut.

All 17 were built or refurbished under the public private partnership agreement in 2001 by a consortium that included Bank of Scotland.