Software collapse adds to school janitor chaos

Children from the 14th Edinburgh and North East ENE Scouts Beavers and Cubs and the 51st Brownies outside the Royal High Primary School.
Children from the 14th Edinburgh and North East ENE Scouts Beavers and Cubs and the 51st Brownies outside the Royal High Primary School.
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CONTROVERSIAL new arrangements for out-of-hours janitor cover at city schools have been plunged into further chaos because of a software failure with the booking system.

Groups like Scouts, Brownies and Beavers have already had regular weekly sessions cancelled at short notice following the changes.

And council chiefs admitted they had been inundated with e-mails from concerned parents and others across the city.

In the shake-up, primary schools have been allocated just 32 “free hours” of janitorial cover outside the 
normal school day for the whole year. Any use of the premises beyond that incurs the cost of the janitor on top of the letting charge. All bookings have been switched from local arrangements to a centralised system for the whole city.

But now it has emerged a collapse of the software used for the booking system has led to a massive backlog.

In an e-mail apologising to groups who had applied for a let, officials said: “We are now manually inputting over 1200 lines of customer information from the start.”

A briefing document for councillors said: “Due to the age of the equipment, it is not possible to fix the system.”

Tory education spokesman Callum Laidlaw said a technology issue was exacerbating a situation that was already controversial. “Given the changes to the system, for the computer system to then fail and officials to be trying to pull together contacts manually, it seems a catalogue of errors,” he said.

“This has happened at the start of the new school year when organisations are trying to get sessions off the ground and looking for new participants or members and it just makes that all the harder.”

Caroline Kaye, from the Royal High Primary parent council, said the change to the janitors’ hours remained the real issue. She said her school had already lost commercial lets with a dance group and an aerobics class moving out, while the remaining groups had been told they could only be guaranteed the next five weeks.

Ms Kaye said: “I’m afraid in six months’ time the school will be shut as of 6pm every night because all our lets will have gone. I hope I’m wrong.”

Green education spokeswoman Mary Campbell welcomed a council promise of a review of the system after three months. “Our schools and community centres are community assets and need to be available as such,” she said. “The review needs to come up with new arrangements that allow buildings to be open and to be affordable.”

Education convener Cllr Ian Perry said: “Something has clearly not gone right about this process.” He said officials were gathering information on the problems and this would all be presented in a report for the review.