Comment: We trust our kids will be safe at school

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Education has many claims on our priorities. The greatest and most indisputable is pupil safety.

This requires not only a high standard of new school building but also regular and properly funded maintenance of the existing school stock.

It is thus seriously worrying that a backlog in school repairs may have claimed another Edinburgh victim. A boy at the school where a pupil tragically died last year when a wall collapsed has suffered a broken neck at Liberton High School after goalposts toppled on him.

This incident comes less than a year after Keane Wallis-Bennett was crushed by a free-standing wall. Memories are still painfully raw for pupils and teachers.

Liberton High also hit the headlines in 2011, when a girl was seriously injured when she fell 16ft down a lift shaft.

Such tragedies are every parent’s nightmare. We send our children to schools trusting that they will be taught in a safe environment.

What makes all this doubly worrying is that the city is facing a deficit of more than £17 million for day-to-day spending on repair jobs such as loose masonry, broken windows and heating failures

Recent figures revealed that the city would have to spend £25m to fund this immediate repair need, but only £7.5m is available. This can only be of deep concern to parents over a build-up of safety risks from ongoing structural degradation.

Add to this the need to modernise and upgrade our schools to tough Scottish Government criteria and all told Edinburgh schools were recently reckoned to need around £80m to spend on repairs and improvements to the estate.

The longer that work on repairs is delayed or shelved, the greater the problems that are being stored up for the future. As every home-owner knows, building degradation can quickly feed on itself 
unless timely action is taken.

A step change is needed in funding to make sure that our children are safe in the schools to which parents entrust them. Education chiefs have been made acutely aware of the consequences of maintenance failure. Now they must show a clear determination to act.