Edinburgh school closures inquiry to cost £250k

DETAILS of the upcoming inquiry into the Edinburgh schools scandal have been unveiled for the first time.

Thursday, 9th June 2016, 5:15 am
Updated Monday, 13th June 2016, 12:19 pm
The crisis was sparked by a wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary. Picture: Toby Williams

The council-backed inquiry, which comes after the shock closure of 17 city school earlier this year, will examine all aspects of the £360 million public private partnership (PPP1) agreement that built the faulty facilities more than a decade ago.

Bosses insisted they were “determined to see what lessons can be learned” from the fiasco, which saw thousands of pupils left in limbo in the run-up to exams.

The independent investigation – which will report back in December – will look at the council’s contract with Edinburgh Schools Partnership, the private finance consortium that constructed and maintained the schools, as well as scrutinising the role of the council when it came to checking the quality of the buildings.

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And the management and maintenance of the structures – including whether the defects should have been found earlier – will also come under the spotlight. It will also examine the original wall collapse at Oxgangs Primary School that sparked the closures.

Opposition politicians welcomed the “broad-ranging” inquiry. Oxgangs councillor Jason Rust said it appeared “to be focusing on the key issues of concern which have been raised with me and others”.

He said: “I am particularly pleased to see the reference to Oxgangs Primary School, given the school’s re-opening and subsequent closure resulted in much concern locally.”

Green councillor Steve Burgess said: “There has been nervousness in some political groups about the inquiry looking into the nature of the private finance contracts and the whole question of funding.

“I suspect it would have suited some councillors had the remit been narrowed to only be about construction techniques.”

The investigation – which will also look at whether the PPP1 deal had an effect on the construction process – will kick off in the early autumn once schools have reopened. It is expected to cost between £150,000 and £250,000, with a chair to oversee it being appointed by next Tuesday.

Structured in a similar way to the Mortonhall inquiry, it will examine and review documents and take oral and written evidence, but will not be able to compel witnesses to co-operate.

Council chief executive Andrew Kerr said: “These clear and thorough terms of reference, drafted in consultation with the political group leaders, set out exactly what we are aiming to achieve through this inquiry. Clearly, we want to find out what went wrong with these schools and are determined to see what lessons can be learned.”