Edinburgh schools opened for 15 years without proper safety paperwork

Two schools built in the controversial PFI 'disaster' have been open without final fire inspections for 12 years, the Evening News can reveal.

Saturday, 1st December 2018, 10:26 am
Updated Saturday, 1st December 2018, 10:40 am
Craigmount High and Royal High have been without building completion certifcates since 2006. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP) was responsible for building and maintaining 17 schools on behalf of the city council.

But after a wall collapsed at Oxgangs Primary School in 2016, investigations revealed a host of problems in other school buildings. The schools were temporarily shut after ESP said it was unable to provide safety assurances.

The city council’s finance and resources committee is set to agree a draft settlement with ESP on Tuesday – which will see the company pay for all structural repairs and agree longer opening hours for sports use.

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But a separate report, to be discussed by the council’s corporate policy and strategy committee, reveals that both Royal High and Craigmount High have been operating without a building completion certificate since 2006 – after temporary certificates expired. Certification is dependent upon completion and checking of the fire protection works.

The report says: “Two schools unfortunately remain without building completion certificates (Royal High School and Craigmount High School).

“These buildings were given temporary occupancy certificates on 6 November 2003 and 25 July 2003 respectively, which would both have expired after three years.

“ESP has made the relevant applications for these certificates but final certification requires that all outstanding fire safety works are fully complete. These works have recently been completed and it is anticipated that appropriate certification or equivalent can be granted by the council following a final inspection.”

Opposition councillors have raised concerns about the ability of ESP to continue managing the buildings – with contracts still to run until 2033.

Conservative Cllr Callum Laidlaw said: “The ESP has been an unmitigated disaster.

“It cost the council millions and delivered poorly built and shoddily maintained schools and the latest findings show even elementary paperwork has not been properly completed.

“While the company has settled with the council, and it’s no longer out of pocket, I have serious concerns whether ESP will meet its obligations for contracts that run in some instances for another 15 years.”

Green councillor Gavin Corbett said the issues were proof that the PPP schools have been a failure. He said: “While I welcome the progress made there are still some questions outstanding.  Why, for example, do we not yet have final fire safety certificates at two schools, Royal High and Craigmount?

“And at the same time as all this has been happening, it is no secret that the city’s building standards team has had significant performance issues. An improvement plan is in place, but given the importance of building inspection and compliance highlighted by Professor Cole, it remains work in progress.

“More fundamentally, we cannot lose sight of how stressful the PPP fiasco has been, resulting in the displacement of thousands of children, millions of pounds of extra cost and months of disrupted schooling.  So when will there be an open and honest recognition that the PPP model of funding schools has been a failed experiment?”

A council spokeswoman said: “We anticipate that these outstanding certificates will be issued following the final checks which are currently in process.  The council will continue to ensure that this issue is concluded as soon as possible.”