William Eichler 11 April 2016

Scottish PFI-built schools closed due to safety concerns

The City of Edinburgh Council has been forced to close 17 schools after the body responsible for managing them was unable to guarantee they were safe to use.

The schools are built and run by Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP) which had provided the council with assurances the premises would be reopen as normal following the Easter Holidays.

Last Friday, however, construction problems were discovered at one of the schools and ESP was unable to reassure the council that other facilities in their charge were safe.

Council leader Andrew Burns said last Friday: ‘Edinburgh Schools Partnership have today been unable to give the council sufficient guarantee that the schools and other premises are safe to open on Monday.

‘Clearly we have every right to expect these schools to have been built to a good standard and in accordance with industry practice.

‘We now know this isn’t the case. ESP have let the council down but more importantly they have the let children, parents and staff of this city down.’

ESP has written to the council to apologise and has promised to accept financial responsibility resolving the problems.

Detailed structural surveys, carried out by ESP, are underway to ensure the safety of the schools before they are opened again, and the Scottish government has offered support in an effort to speed up the process.

The council is also trying to organise alternative arrangements for the pupils and has prioritised secondary schools because of upcoming exams.

Chief executive Andrew Kerr said: ‘I today sought assurances from Edinburgh Schools Partnership that their ongoing programme of inspections would give us the confidence to reopen our schools. I have offered to help them secure the necessary resources to complete this as quickly as possible.

‘I also reminded them of their contractual and financial obligations and want to assure Edinburgh residents that they will not be left footing the bill.’

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