Comment: City’s response to schools crisis has been magnificent

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THE fact that 17 city schools have been forced to close on safety grounds beggars belief.

Parents will want answers in the fullness of time as to how this was able to happen. The most pressing questions will centre around how schools came to be built with such an apparently basic safety flaw in the first place and how that was able to go undetected by building inspectors.

Questions will inevitably be asked about the maintenance of the school buildings over the last eight years by the private consortium from which the city leases them for £12 million a year. However, if this is a basic construction flaw hidden behind masonry in a new building, it may well be that there was no reason for this to come to light.

An in-depth inquiry is certainly needed into the full circumstances behind this damning episode. One of the questions it should ask is whether anything would have been different if the school buildings had instead been directly maintained by the city council.

The ensuing chaos this week has been extremely trying for many families as they return from their Easter break, not least because they don’t know what the days ahead will bring. The task of finding suitable accommodation for thousands of pupils if they cannot return to their classrooms is a logistical nightmare. It will inevitably take days to work through for everyone involved.

The priorities shown by the city since the extent of the problems came to light – take no chances with the safety of our children and make sure those due to sit exams are taken care of first – has been exactly right. The response from across the city – with everyone from our churches to Edinburgh University and the Scottish Parliament offering their help – has been magnificent. The continuing patience of parents and good communication from the council will be key to managing the coming days as smoothly as possible.