Kids miss hot meals as school boilers broken

Leith Primary was one of two schools affected. Picture: Jon Savage
Leith Primary was one of two schools affected. Picture: Jon Savage
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HUNDREDS of children missed out on hot school meals on the first day of term because of boiler problems.

Pupils at Leith and Towerbank primaries – where the combined roll is around 850 – were served packed lunches on Monday and yesterday because water heating equipment was not working properly.

Education leaders said the problem at both schools had been resolved after replacement boiler parts were sourced, adding that hot meals would be on the menu from today.

But parents and political leaders criticised the situation and said it was evidence of chronic failures in the city’s school maintenance systems.

One mother of a pupil at Leith Primary, who asked not to be named, said: “You just feel that this is something that should have been sorted out during the holidays – you would expect it to be fixed during the holidays.

“It’s the sort of thing that happens [at Leith] and does not get fixed for a long time – it’s a crumbling school.

“Often, when there’s a problem, it takes a while to fix. It’s to do with the age of the school. Last year, they came back from the holidays and within days, they had to close down the building and the gym hall. They have not really found a solution to that yet.”

She added: “Generally, schools in Edinburgh and other council buildings do not seem to be getting as much upkeep as they should be.”

A father at Towerbank Primary, who also asked not to be named, said: “I gather that it was not only our school which had the problem – you wonder if the council is skimping on its maintenance budget.

“It’s not such a great problem in August. But in winter it would have been a bit miserable for the kids if this had happened on the first day back after the Christmas holidays.”

The news comes amid ongoing concern over the city’s ability to ensure classrooms, gyms and dining halls are kept in good working order.

Last year, council bosses said they would roll out a £30 million maintenance programme – managed by a dedicated team of staff – to bring all schools in Edinburgh up to a “good standard” by 2020. That commitment came only weeks after 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett was crushed to death when a wall at Liberton High collapsed on top of her while she was getting ready for PE.

We revealed on Saturday how education chiefs had shortlisted Liberton and Balerno high schools, along with Trinity Academy and Wester Hailes Education Centre, for possible replacement or renovation under a revamp plan which could cost up to £150m.

Opposition figures said boiler problems at Leith and Towerbank highlighted the need for regular maintenance of school buildings.

Describing the situation as “unacceptable”, Councillor Chas Booth, Green member for Leith, said: “I’ve asked officials for an urgent review of how this happened, what action they’re taking to resolve the situation and how they will ensure it doesn’t recur.

“The summer holidays should be used to ensure everything in the school is in working order, including for servicing boilers, so I’m concerned to hear that doesn’t seem to have happened at Leith Primary.

“This case also underlines the need for ongoing and regular maintenance of school buildings, which Green councillors have long argued for.”

Council bosses said they had acted quickly once it became apparent that school boilers were not operating at full capacity. A spokesman said: “We resolved the hot water issue yesterday afternoon and hope to be able to provide hot meals from today.”