School closures: Half of schools closed until summer

Craigmount High School parent Beatrice Buchanan. Picture: Neil Hanna
Craigmount High School parent Beatrice Buchanan. Picture: Neil Hanna
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MORE THAN half of the Edinburgh schools shut over safety fears will not be reopened by the summer holidays, it has been revealed.

Vital repair work will need to be carried out on all 17 of the schools built and maintained by Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), a private finance consortium formed in 2001.

The kids and parents are still suffering from this situation, and we are still waiting. The more it goes on, the more angry we become.

Beatrice Buchanan

But a council source confirmed a “draft programme of works” has now been submitted by ESP – complete with suggested dates for facilities reopening.

City chiefs previously gave ESP a deadline of today to report back with the results of its ongoing surveys.

The source said the latest any schools will reopen is August – a full update is set to be provided to families today.

The news comes amid rising frustration from parents – with one even vowing to organise a march on ESP’s offices if information is not forthcoming.

Mum Beatrice Buchanan, 43, whose daughter attends Craigmount High, called on the consortium to be “open and honest” about the issues facing the schools – and publicly apologise to parents.

She said: “The kids and parents are still suffering from this situation, and we are still waiting. The more it goes on, the more angry we become.

“If I don’t hear [full details today], I will organise some type of march and go down to the partnership’s offices. Because that’s just not good enough.”

She also raised concerns over the disruption to her daughter’s education – with bus journeys eating into the school day and less focus on core subjects such as maths and English.

Dad Scott Page, 42, who has two sons and a step-daughter at the same school, said the primary emotion among parents was anxiety.

He added: “I think the school is doing the best it can in the circumstances. Obviously, it’s not ideal.

“My guess would be the kids are not going to be back at that school until the middle of August – after the summer holidays. My primary concern is for the education of my kids, two of whom have exams starting next Thursday.”

All 17 of the closed schools were built following a public-private partnership agreement more than ten years ago. At a full council meeting yesterday, city leader Andrew Burns issued an unreserved apology to pupils, teachers and families affected by the debacle.

We previously revealed council chiefs will send in their own surveyors to double-check ESP’s repairs, in a move many see as signalling a “breakdown in trust” in the consortium.

Mr Burns has vowed a full inquiry into the crisis will be held. The probe is expected to take the same form as that carried out into the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal, with a senior, independent legal expert brought in to oversee it.

Councillor Melanie Main, Edinburgh Greens education spokeswoman, said: “It is absolutely right for the focus just now to be on, first of all, getting repairs to school completed and, secondly, getting pupils back into their own schools as soon as it is safe to do so.

“However, it is not just walls which need rebuilt – it’s confidence and trust. And that needs a full and independent inquiry which regards no territory as out of bounds.”

alistair.grant@jpress.co.uk