Scottish school concerns spread nationwide


Councils across Scotland are running checks on the structural safety of their schools in the wake of building defects found across Edinburgh’s privately financed portfolio.

Brickwork fell off Oxgangs Primary School in January because header ties were missing
Above: Brickwork fell off Oxgangs Primary School in January because header ties were missing

Since faults were found in Edinburgh schools earlier this year, it has since emerged that Glasgow had previously encountered similar problems.

It has now also been revealed that engineers commissioned by Stirling Council have identified structural problems with walls in one of its secondary schools.

City of Edinburgh Council is planning an independent inquiry into construction faults that forced the recent temporary closures or 17 schools across the city.

The inquiry is expected to cover all aspects of the closures and be chaired by ‘an independent senior figure’

Council leader Andrew Burns said: “It is important that we have an independent chair for this inquiry; one who commands respect within the construction industry.

“The terms of reference will be thorough and we want the report to get to the heart of this issue and see what lessons can be learnt, not just here in Edinburgh, but across Scotland.”

He continued: “When the issue came to light, our first priority was safety of pupils and staff, the second was getting pupils back into education, the third is getting the schools reopened and it is not until this has happened that the inquiry will begin.

“Naturally, we want the report to come back as quickly as possible and I would expect it to be complete in a matter of months. We want and deserve answers as to how this has happened – as do parents across the city.

“Feedback is that the current exam arrangements are working well and I’m pleased to say we are still on schedule to have three schools reopening next week, five in June and the remaining nine by the middle of August for the start of the new term.”

The 17 schools were built between 2002 and 2005; of these, 13 were built by a joint venture between Miller Construction (now part of Galliford Try Construction) and Amey Asset Services Ltd, now known as Amey Programme Management. The four schools in phase 2 were built by Miller.

On 29th January 2016, an external wall leaf at Oxgangs Primary School, one of the four phase 2 schools, partially collapsed during a storm. This resulted in the temporary closure of the school. Investigations identified a construction defect in relation to wall ties as the primary cause of the collapse. Remedial works were undertaken and the school reopened on 3rd February 2016.

Further investigations revealed the same building fault across all the first phase schools as well, prompting their closure for repairs.

In 2012, Lourdes Primary in Glasgow, which was also built by Miller, was closed as a result of similar issues with wall ties. As a result of this discovery, Glasgow City Council commissioned structural surveys on all schools built by Miller, which revealed no further defects.

It was not until the Edinburgh problems came to light that alarm bells have been rung more widely. According to a report discussed by Edinburgh’s corporate policy and strategy committee this week, councils across Scotland are now undertaking surveys, including in some cases intrusive surveys, on their privately financed school estate.

On 6th May 2016, Stirling Council indicated to parents that precautionary checks carried out by engineers had also uncovered a problem at Balfron High School. However, these are not being attributed to design faults or bad execution.

“These are issues that would have been expected to arise within a building that is now 15 years old and were not deemed to be due to building quality or practices at that time,” Stirling Council said.





This article was published on 18 May 2016 (last updated on 18 May 2016).

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