School closures: temporary classrooms ‘worse than prison’

The current classrooms at WHEC
The current classrooms at WHEC
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PARENTS have blasted temporary classrooms as “worse than prison” as more than half chose to keep their children away from school in protest.

City chiefs decided to move Oxgangs Primary pupils to new accommodation yesterday following a barrage of complaints about the condition of short-term classrooms for those in P6 and P7.

Youngsters were being taught in a wooden block at the back of Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC) – a building previously pegged for demolition – following the closure of 17 city schools earlier this month.

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Council officials confirmed pupils will now move to alternative classrooms in Niddrie Mill Primary School from tomorrow onwards as a result of complaints.

The announcement came after only 27 of the 55 pupils in Oxgangs’ P7 classes attended school yesterday.

Parents took to social media to condemn the temporary classrooms’ dirty windows, rotten wood and hole-ridden walls. One wrote: “People in Saughton Prison are put in better conditions. Disgusting.”

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Mum Paula Miller, 39, was one of those who decided to keep her two children Chase, ten, and Leo, 12, away from school in protest.

She said she was “delighted” the situation had now been sorted out, adding: “It just generally looked unclean and unsafe. I personally did not think it was a good environment for children to be taught in.”

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Last night, council chiefs said they were continuing to press Edinburgh Schools Partnership for further information on when schools could reopen.

The PFI consortium built and maintained all 17 of the schools forced to close amid safety fears – but has yet to release any firm timetable for repairs.

Meanwhile, a review of bus timetabling for S1 and S3s at Craigmount and Gracemount high schools is being carried out to address concerns about the length of the school day.

Alistair Gaw, the council’s acting executive director of communities and families, said: “We recognise this has been a challenging time for parents and pupils and I’d like to thank them for their patience and support.

“I’d also like to pay tribute to teachers across the city for their dedication and professionalism in responding to the situation, and helping make the alternative arrangements work in practice.”

Oxgangs councillor Jason Rust said: “Parents welcome the fact that the council have now acted and found alternative more suitable accommodation, albeit there will be travel time involved. The fact a number of pupils were effectively withdrawn from school today shows the serious concerns about the temporary accommodation originally provided for the senior pupils at Oxgangs Primary School.

“It is only regrettable that it took pressure from parents to get this outcome and questions remain as to how long the pupils will remain in temporary accommodation.”