Inspectors to be called in to check Edinburgh’s PFI schools

Oxgangs Primary School is one f the schools that will be checked.
Oxgangs Primary School is one f the schools that will be checked.
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INDEPENDENT inspectors are to be called in to check up on the consortium responsible for Edinburgh’s PFI schools.

Council chiefs say they no longer have confidence in the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), which is in charge of the maintenance and repair of 17 schools across the city.

Councillors will next week be asked to back plans for regular inspections of the schools by an independent surveyor, which would be paid for by the consortium.

The move comes as ESP and sub-contractors Amey refused to attend a meeting with parents from Oxgangs Primary School over a series of recent failings with their building.

The collapse of an outer wall at Oxgangs Primary originally sparked school closures in 2016 when safety checks uncovered structural faults at all 17 sites. In February, ceiling tiles and part of a ceiling frame came down, hitting one child.

Then last month, staff and pupils were ordered to stay indoors as roof flashings were blown loose in strong winds.

A council source said it was the experience of Oxgangs that prompted the motion due to be tabled at next week’s full council meeting, proposing independent inspectors.

The source said: “After the flashing came off the roof, we did an independent inspection and found other things on the roof that needed to be done. They were not immediately serious, but they needed to be dealt with. The fact they had been up there and not identified these issues is clearly a worry and in that sense we cannot trust them.

“Their maintenance and inspection regime is not fit for purpose, so the plan is to call for independent inspections and for them to pay for them.

“We need to reassure parents in the PPP1 schools we are doing everything possible to ensure schools are maintained properly and safely at all times.”

Education convener Cllr Ian Perry said: “We are looking at ways we can improve the inspection regime.”

Parents at Oxgangs wanted a meeting with representatives of ESP and Amey to quiz them on the problems at the school over the past two years. But they received a response saying the ESP board “does not feel it is appropriate to attend” and Amey had reached the same conclusion. ESP said it was drafting a statement to be made available at the meeting. It added the ESP board and Amey might be willing to meet the headteacher and possibly a representative from the parent council to discuss issues not addressed by the statement.

Labour Cllr Scott Arthur said: “It is absolutely outrageous that the Oxgangs Primary School PFI operator is refusing to attend a Q&A with parents. I and many parents have lost all confidence in them. My advice to the parent council is to ‘empty chair’ them.”

Tory Cllr Jason Rust said he was extremely disappointed at the decision by ESP and Amey not to attend.

“I would have thought this would have been an ideal opportunity to be upfront, respond to questions and offer some reassurance to the school community,” he said.