City school's private cash revamp stalls

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A CONTROVERSIAL private finance project to upgrade a famous Edinburgh school has fallen four months behind schedule and the principal contractor has left the job.

Pupils at the Royal High School, whose parents have complained that building work is affecting their children’s studies, will face further disruption unless the work can get back on track by next August’s completion date.

The 10 million scheme is part of an 80m deal with private developers to revamp and rebuild several schools across the city.

The city council insisted today that the problems at the Royal High would have no impact on the other projects and that it would stick within its 10m budget.

But calls were made today for a review of the Public Private Partnership scheme at the school.

A source at the consortium behind the work today vowed to "pull out the stops" to get work back on schedule, with the delays blamed on "unforeseen technical problems".

But Cramond councillor Kate Mackenzie , whose ward is in the school’s feeder area, said: "Parents are already concerned that the building work is disrupting their children’s education. News that it is now four months behind schedule will be a worry for them.

" The builders tell us that they will make that up, but there is no information on how they are going to get back on schedule.

"I believe it is time that the education department took a more hands-on role in the work, making sure that timetables are met ."

Parents were told of the delays at a meeting in the school this week. The Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), a consortium involving construction giants Miller Group and Amey, insisted it would still have the work completed on time . It has already replaced the principal subcontractor, Robertsons Group, with its own workers.

ESP said today Robertsons had simply reached the end of its contract, but Robertsons admitted it was "disappointed" at the move.

A spokesman for ESP said: "The completion date for the refurbishment of the Royal High School was and remains August 2003. This is a complex project and, while there have been some short-term delays, we are still very much on schedule to complete the works as planned."

One ESP source said contractors were now working evenings and weekends to make up for the delays. He added: "We are pulling out all the stops to get the work done by next August."

A city council spokeswoman said the building work was running three to four months behind schedule.

She added: "This is due to unforeseen technical difficulties. We have discussed the situation with ESP and are reassured that the work will still be completed on time."

She also confirmed that Robertsons was no longer working on site.

A spokesman for Stirling-based Robertsons said the company was "disappointed" at the move but insisted it had carried out its work within budget and on time.

Royal High rector George Smuga said: " We would clearly have preferred not to be behind schedule. However, the bottom line is that the curriculum is delivered effectively and the health and safety of pupils is not compromised.

"On both of these counts, the school has delivered. In fact, the exam results for this year look as good, if not better, than last year’s despite the building work. "

In September, pupils threatened to sue education chiefs, complaining that construction was seriously affecting their children’s studies.

They were also being forced to revise in the school canteen because of lack of space .

Teachers’ union the Educational Institute of Scotland also raised concerns that teachers were becoming increasingly stressed by the situation.

The city council today insisted the Royal High project was still well within budget, despite the delays.

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