School closures consortium grilled by council over repairs

Work being carried out on Oxgangs Primary School. Picture: Julie Bull
Work being carried out on Oxgangs Primary School. Picture: Julie Bull
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CITY chiefs held crunch talks with the consortium behind Edinburgh’s ongoing schools crisis last night in an attempt to thrash out a timetable for repairs – and get youngsters back to their schools.

Five secondaries, ten primaries and two special schools were closed earlier this month amid safety fears, uprooting thousands of pupils at a time when many are preparing for vital exams.

The council’s chief executive, Andrew Kerr, met bosses at Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP) in a bid to put a date on the schools reopening. Mr Kerr insisted the council was in “constant dialogue” with ESP, and that the consortium was “aware of our concerns”.

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He added: “It is important that we have clear information regarding the condition of these schools, and when they will be safe to reopen.”

City leaders have given ESP a deadline of Friday to report back with the results of its ongoing surveys – but are now pushing to get an indication of timetables before tomorrow’s full council meeting.

All 17 of the faulty schools were built and maintained by ESP – a private finance consortium formed by Amey, Miller Construction and the Bank of Scotland in 2001.

Council sources said “behind the scenes” pressure was mounting on ESP bosses to appear before the cameras themselves and give press interviews addressing parents’ concerns.

Last night, ESP declined to comment on its meeting with the council. It said its teams were working “exceptionally hard” to complete the agreed surveys, and expected that “most or all” would be done by the end of the week.

Senior pupils at two of the high schools affected by the closures – Craigmount and Gracemount – face sitting their upcoming exams in alternative schools.

Meanwhile, youngsters in P6 and P7 of Oxgangs Primary were moved to Niddrie Mill Primary today after parents complained about the condition of temporary classrooms they were being taught in. Following the closure of their school, the pupils had been moved to a wooden block at the back of Wester Hailes Education Centre. But angry families blasted the decaying buildings as “worse than prison”.

A review of bus timetabling for S1 and S3s at Craigmount and Gracemount is also being carried out to address concerns about the length of the school day.

Oxgangs councillor Jason Rust said a “comprehensive timetable” was needed “as soon as possible to give some certainty and confidence to parents that matters are in hand”.

He added: “The council needs to ensure that ESP is being as constructive as possible and a more public stance by ESP would be most welcome to reassure people of transparency and openness in discussions given the thousands of pupils caught up in what is perceived to be a scandalous situation.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com