Edinburgh schools consortium ‘hiding from problems’

Andrew Kerr, above, has accused the ESP of hiding from problems
Andrew Kerr, above, has accused the ESP of hiding from problems
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CITY council chief executive Andrew Kerr has accused the consortium responsible for Edinburgh’s PFI schools of “trying to hide” from problems with the building at Oxgangs Primary.

And he has told them it is “not acceptable” for them to refuse to attend a public meeting with parents.

Edinburgh Schools Partnership and their sub-contractors Amey said it was “not appropriate” to go to the meeting with Oxgangs parents to discuss a series of safety incidents at the school. In February, ceiling tiles and part of a ceiling frame came down, hitting one child. And last month, staff and pupils were ordered to stay indoors as roof flashings were blown loose in strong winds.

Mr Kerr urged the consortium to think again about its attendance at the meeting. And he said ESP’s stance had left him with no option but to contact the chief executives of the companies which make up the consortium, asking therm to “take a more direct role in this matter”.

His intervention comes as a building conditions survey listed a catalogue of failings at the school. It said support wires for the suspended ceiling had not been correctly installed - some had been tied to water pipes rather than using a proper fixing. It also highlighted missing screws and fixings on the roof. And it said the school was a “moderate” fire risk, with escape routes partially blocked and door-closers removed from some fire doors.

In his letter, Mr Kerr said he was “personally extremely disappointed” that ESP proposed not to send representatives to the meeting and had instead merely offered a statement and the possibility of a meeting with the head teacher.

“This is not acceptable in the face of the significant issues which are still being dealt with by the council and the ongoing concerns of the staff, parents and their children.

“I can also assure you that, if maintained, this stance will significantly increase the wider concerns across the council.”Mr Kerr added that the Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Local Government Minister Kevin Stewart were both taking an “active interest” in the issues at Oxgangs.

And he said: “The council’s perception is that ESP and their sub-contractors are trying to hid from the issues rather than complying fully with your obligations and indeed doing the right thing for the citizens of Edinburgh.”

Labour councillor Scott Arthur said Mr Kerr’s intervention reflected parents’ frustration at ESP’s attitude. He said: “Parents in my ward demanded ESP should come to the meeting even if they did so kicking and screaming.”

Green councillor Gavin Corbett said: “The chief executive is right to say that a no-show from ESP and Amey is simply not acceptable. These are multi-million pound companies who have significant questions to answer in their maintenance of the school. They need to be directly answerable to the school community they are supposed to serve.”

Tory Jason Rust said: “It is disappointing this intervention is necessary but parents will be pleased to see the council taking a robust position.”