Scouts cancelled and Christmas fairs at risk over Edinburgh janitor fees

Kiam Matthews whose scout grop is postponed due to a lack of a janitor at his school.
Kiam Matthews whose scout grop is postponed due to a lack of a janitor at his school.
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SCOUTS, Brownies and Beavers are having their weekly meetings cancelled at short notice and Christmas fairs are under threat because of a new system for providing school janitors.

Primary schools across the city have been allocated just 32 “free hours” of janitorial cover outside the normal school day for the whole year – and any use of the premises beyond that means having to pay for the janitor on top of the letting charge.

But if no janitor comes 
forward to do the overtime, sessions can be cancelled with little or no warning.

And parent councils who run Christmas fairs and other events to help raise money for school funds now face extra costs and say they don’t know whether they will still go ahead.

Scouts who meet at Royal High Primary School turned up for their first weekly session after the summer holidays to find the building shut because there was no janitor to cover.

Mother Laura Matthews said son Kiam, 12, was left standing in the rain. “No-one was told – they didn’t even phone the Scout leader.” She said the new system for janitors was “absolutely ridiculous”.

Caroline Kaye, who is on the parent council at Royal High Primary, said the Brownies’ Thursday meeting was cancelled only a few hours before it was due to start.

She said the school’s parent council raised thousands every year for school funds but will now have to pay for janitors at their events.

She said: “We’re a very active parent council – we have a Halloween disco, a summer disco, a ceilidh, a summer fair and a Christmas fair, as well as other events. We’re planning to go ahead with the Halloween disco – it’s guaranteed to be very busy so we should not lose money – but the biggest issue is we still don’t know if we’ve got cover for October 30. What if it’s not open or we get an email at the last minute?”

Charging for janitors means some of the money raised for schools will now go to pay for janitors.

And Jenny Mackenzie, chair of Craiglockhart Primary’s parent association, said subsidised Spanish and music clubs they run may no longer be viable when the cost of a janitor is added in. She said: “We feel it closes the door on being able to afford activities. And we don’t know what’s going to happen with our summer fair.”

Green councillor Mary Campbell said: “It makes absolutely no sense for a community asset like a school to be lying closed and dark on evenings and weekends when groups are crying out for space. The council needs to review the impact of the new policy as soon as possible. In the meantime it needs to look at other options to ensure that schools are kept open as needed.”

And Tory education spokesman Callum Laidlaw also urged a review. “If we are saying schools should be at the heart of the community it seems contradictory to provide such a limited amount of time where janitorial cover is free.”

A council spokesman said: “Where local arrangements may have been in place in the past we are now asking anyone wishing to take out a school let to apply for the standard permit though our school lets team.

“When we receive these requests we will endeavour to provide a facilities technician to allow the let to take place.”