Ian Murray: All school pupils must be safe

Have your say

Just a couple of days before Christmas last year the Liberton High School community were devastated by the sudden death of pupil Jamie Skinner whilst playing the sport he loved.

The pupils, teachers and local community rallied around his family and friends to ensure his memory would live on with the establishment of the Jamie Skinner Foundation.

To have a second death shock the school and community in such circumstances is truly a tragedy, and the death of 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett has brought the heartbreak flooding back.

I know the school very well from being a councillor for the local area since 2003 and the MP since 2010. It has always had a strong management team and very supportive parent council. The headteacher, Stephen Kelly, is one of the best headteachers in the country. It is a school well- rooted in the local community but one tragedy is enough for any school to cope with, let alone two in such a short space of time.

For Keane’s family to have seen her off to school last Tuesday morning for her never to return home is something that no parent should have to experience. There is a vast floral tribute at the entrance to the school. It was heartbreaking reading the cards and the messages in the condolence book within Liberton Northfield Church. It shows how much this has stunned the local community. But what happens now? Parents and pupils will be reassured that the council has inspected all their properties in the city with free-standing walls and taken action where it has been identified that there may be a potential issue. The main thing has to be to ensure that all our schools and public buildings are safe.

It would be wrong to start speculating on the causes of the accident until the authorities have concluded their report. However, what it has started is a debate about the parts of the school estate that need improved.

Whilst my constituency of Edinburgh South is now served by a new Gracemount High, St Thomas’ and Holyrood with Firrhill having been refurbished, a new James Gillespie’s being built and plans for Boroughmuir at an advanced stage, this has left Liberton High in a ­difficult position as the only cluster high school that has not the same level of investment.

The relatively new gym building at Liberton was welcome but the school and parent council have been pressing for many years to get adequate investment for a complete refurbishment or new build. Much of their budget is spent on items that new schools don’t have to worry about such as general maintenance.

The much mentioned 2013 condition surveys of Edinburgh schools were a comprehensive study but showed that there is much more to do than there is funding available. As a result, the council has a five-year programme to bring all the schools up to a satisfactory standard, but I would hope that every effort is made to reduce that timescale to as short as possible by seeking all available sources of funding, perhaps from the Scottish Government.

If anything remotely positive can come out of such a devastating tragedy it must be that never again should a pupil be killed whilst at school. We owe it to the memory of Keane to do all we can to make that happen.

• Ian Murray is Labour MSP for Edinburgh South