Parents’ fury as promise to rebuild Liberton school is broken

Keane Wallis-Bennett who died when a wall collapsed at Liberton High School in 2014.
Keane Wallis-Bennett who died when a wall collapsed at Liberton High School in 2014.
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Passionate calls from parents to rebuild a school where a pupil was crushed to death by a wall have fallen on deaf ears as buildings in worse condition were prioritised for repairs.

Parents from Liberton High School also raised safety concerns after armed intruders were only halted following the brave intervention of PE teachers last month.

In April 2014, 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett was killed when a wall collapsed on top of her at the school.

Parents say they were given assurances by the council that the school would be rebuilt – but have accused the authority of a “sticking plaster approach”.

Councillors agreed to instead press ahead with plans to improve facilities at Trinity High School and rebuild Castlebrae High School after they were deemed in higher need than Liberton following building surveys from council experts.

In a emotional plea for action, Liberton parent Marion Hemmingway-Brunt, said that after the tragic accident, the council simply issued “a giant sticking plaster to help seal the cracks”. She added: “We were asked to be patient, to collaborate, let the inquiries take place before asking any questions – put our complete trust in the council that something would be done.

“Our school building lays at the heart of our open, forward-thinking community.

“Five years ago, a sticking plaster approach was our greatest fear – you spend millions of pounds you haven’t got, sticking on plasters. Our staff and leadership team continue to battle the building on a daily basis. Nothing has changed in five years. The Scottish Government kicked us back like a second grade football.”

Chairman of the school’s parent council, Derek McNeill, also highlighted security fears after armed intruders attempted to gain access to the building on Monday, May 14. He said: “A security review has been looked at and there’s talk about putting a security fence around the back of the school.

“We want a facility that’s safe and secure and fit for purpose.”

Council officer Crawford McGhie paid tribute to staff for preventing anyone from being injured.

He said: “It was a particularly frightening incident. Three young people went into the grounds of the school and attempted to get in. At least one person was armed.

“It was only through the staff members being able to appropriately challenge these individuals that averted a nasty incident. PE staff went way above what should ever be asked of a teacher.”

He added: “If there is a complaint of somebody being armed, police have a protocol which involves a period of time while they carry out a risk assessment. That delays police reaching the scene by up to ten minutes. It was at least 20 minutes before police arrived at the scene.”

The plea for a new school won the support of Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray who said the school feels as if is has been left out following the “emotional turmoil”.

MSP Daniel Johnston said: “I firmly believe that any public service requires the confidence from the people that use it.

“That faith and confidence in the school has been reduced and that will only be repaired when the school is properly and completely rebuilt.”

Chief Superintendent Matt Richards from Operational Support Division said: “I want to make it clear that whenever a call is received relating to an individual in possession of a weapon, then police will respond swiftly and utilise appropriate resources to keep the public safe.

“Equally as important, however, is the safety of our officers, and it is essential that we carry out a suitable risk assessment of any ongoing incident to ensure police in attendance are best equipped to deal with the circumstances they are presented with.

“All risk assessments are conducted thoroughly but dynamically to allow police to respond in the quickest possible time.”