Comment: How safe are schools for our children?

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It will be some time before we know the full story of how a wall came to collapse with such tragic consequences at Liberton High School.

For now, we must give accident investigators the time they need to carry out a thorough and professional inquiry, so that we have the best possible chance of getting to the unvarnished truth.

What is beyond doubt is that something has gone horribly wrong.

Parents have a right to expect that their children will be safe at school. Yesterday morning it would have been unimaginable to think that anything like this could happen in an Edinburgh school. Yet today we are being forced to question those cosy assumptions.

The decisive action of the city council in ordering a safety audit of modesty walls in schools across the Capital has to be welcomed, but questions are bound to be asked in the coming days about whether or not that goes far enough.

The burning question on many parents’ minds is simply – exactly how safe is my child’s school?

A lot of other questions will have to be answered in due course. Foremost among them, what concerns, if any, had previously been raised about the safety of the wall that collapsed, and what was done about them? If the problem had been known about and not tackled then those responsible must be held to 
account. It is important that investigators also consider if the crisis in the council’s property conservation department has had any impact on building safety inspections at the city’s schools.

There are echoes in yesterday’s terrible events of the Ryan’s Bar tragedy 14 years ago in which waitress Christine Foster was killed by falling masonry.

There had been warning signs before Christine’s death of the problems being caused by the crumbling buildings in the city’s historic heart, but it took the tragic accident to force the city authorities into action.

For years now there have been warnings about the growing problems being caused by the multi-million pound repair backlog in the city’s schools. Surely there will now have to be an equally radical rethink of just how long we can afford to leave them unfixed. That, though, will be no consolation to the family of Keane Wallis-Bennett, who have to face the future without their beloved daughter and sister.