Building materials have collapsed or fallen 20 times at Edinburgh schools in the last two years – including three incidents at Liberton High where a pupil was tragically killed after a wall fell on top of her in 2014.
Conservative councillors have called for the city council to make sure building maintenance at schools is completed on time after it was revealed that six incidents have already taken place since pupils returned to lessons in August. Another 10 incidents of items falling onto pupils and staff have been recorded during the last 22 months.
The three incidents at Liberton took place this year despite a survey in 2017 judging the school was in ‘satisfactory’ condition, meaning the building was “performing adequately but showing minor deterioration”. The satisfactory rating meant the school has missed out on a guaranteed reconstruction in favour of Currie High, Castlebrae High and Trinity Academy.
In the latest Liberton incident, on 16 August 2018, a piece of plaster fell from an area above a doorway and “hit a teacher on the head” – but the member of staff was not believed to have been injured.
On 17 April of this year, two separate incidents took place at the school involving ceiling tiles.
A ceiling tile fell very close to a 12-year-old pupil while another tile narrowly missed a teacher. Contractors performing heating upgrades at the school during the Easter holiday were blamed for slack workmanship and were suspended.
Labour Liberton Cllr Lezley Marion Cameron said ward councillors and the parent council had not been informed about the August incident.
She said: “The parent council have worked so hard over the many years and they’re being let down.
“I have called for funding to be given to the council for the new buildings and to ensure all schools are safe, especially Liberton, given its age and its history.
“What I’m disappointed about is neither myself or the parent council were aware of this incident. Elected members are not being kept as fully informed as possible and that’s just not satisfactory. Parents have to be assured that when pupils are coming to learn, they are coming to learn in a safe and modern environment.”
In April 2014, 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett was killed at Liberton High School when a changing room wall collapsed on her.
In total, 10 of the incidents at schools since January 2017 resulted in injuries to either pupils or staff, three caused damage to property and equipment – while 15 incidents were classed as near misses.
Conservative Edinburgh group chairman Cllr Jason Rust, said: “Any reports of incidents due to falling structures or objects in our schools are of serious concern, including the numerous near misses highlighted.
“This was thoroughly reinforced by the unbelievably tragic situation at Liberton High and previous events at Oxgangs Primary. Parents need reassurance that the buildings in which their children are educated are safe and that the council is taking appropriate action, including preventative inspections and surveys.
“While there is much focus on new school builds, the council cannot lose sight of its duty to ensure that the entire current school estate is properly and adequately maintained. We urgently need target completion dates for all overdue maintenance work and better reporting of commissioned works.”
Liberton parents and staff expected planned maintenance work to be completed over the summer holidays – but it was not completed as initially thought. Following this, chair of the parent council, Derek McNeill accused the council of “consistently failing in their obligations” to Liberton High pupils.
He added: “Every child in Edinburgh should be treated equally and fairly and have access to the same educational standards.
“City of Edinburgh Council and council officers need to take urgent action now to tackle these issues and restore confidence in the council’s commitment to the school.”
Labour MSP for Edinburgh Southern, Daniel Johnson is calling on the Scottish Government to include more funding for schools in the next budget.
He said: “Sadly, Liberton High School has been the site of numerous incidents as a result of the school’s declining physical infrastructure. Indeed, in the past few weeks I have heard of yet another incident where injury was narrowly avoided.
“We know that when these happen they can have very serious, and, in one case, tragic consequences.”
He added: “Against that background, the fact that Liberton High School has seemingly been downgraded and remains so low on the priority list for future investment is a major concern for parents and pupils.
“It is now for the Scottish Government, who don’t have any current school investment plan, to bring forward their plans in the next budget. I hope that that will benefit Liberton and other Edinburgh schools as a priority. ”
In June 2017, part of a door fell onto a teacher at Dean Park Primary School, resulting in an injury. At Castlebrae High School on 18 September, a ceiling tile fell and “just missed a member of staff”. In January 2018, a pupil at Kirkliston Primary School was injured when a whiteboard fell while pupils were playing near it.
In June 2018, wind dislodged two ceiling tiles at Pirniehall Primary School, which hit a pupil on the arm. An injury was caused at Clermistron Primary School in December 2017 when a window next to a pupil “fell in” due to a gust of wind.
A council spokeswoman said: “Safety is an absolute priority for the council. We take all incidents extremely seriously and fully investigate any that have occurred in our schools.
“We are currently in the first year of delivering a planned £153 million investment programme across the whole council estate, including schools, which will take five years to complete. This programme will ensure we achieve a safe, sustainable and planned preventative repair and maintenance regime for all our buildings for the future.”