Edinburgh schools scandal inquiry reports next week

THE independent expert who led the inquiry into Edinburgh's school buildings scandal will present his report to councillors next week.

Portacabin classrooms arrive at 
The Royal High School. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Portacabin classrooms arrive at The Royal High School. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Architect John Cole, who was appointed by the council to investigate the closure of 17 city schools because of structural problems, will address a special meeting of the full council on Thursday afternoon and then answer questions on his findings.

Councillors will be able to view the final draft of the report in secret in advance of the meeting, on Monday and Tuesday next week, before receiving the complete version on Wednesday. But they have been told the 250-page document will not be published for parents and others to see until minutes before the meeting starts.

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The council insists the timing of the publication is to allow everyone to hear about the report first from Mr Cole himself.

Jason Rust. Picture: Ed Jones

But Luke McCullough, chair of the Royal High parents council – one of the schools affected – said: “It would be really helpful for parents to engage with their councillors between publication and the meeting to discuss it.

“We put in a written 
submission to John Cole and we will be looking to see how these aspects have been reflected in the final report.”

The schools crisis began when a wall collapsed at Oxgangs Primary School in January last year. In April, the council decided to shut a total of 17 primary, secondary and special schools – all built under the controversial private finance initiative – after the PFI consortium Edinburgh Schools Partnership said it was unable to provide safety assurances. Around 7,600 pupils were affected, many of them forced to relocate to temporary accommodation for the rest of the term.

Mr Cole, an expert in construction and procurement, was appointed in June and was due to complete his report before Christmas.

Jason Rust. Picture: Ed Jones

But it is understood he was advised any organisation or individual criticised in the report should be given time to respond.

Conservative councillor Jason Rust, who represents Oxgangs, said: “I have some concerns about the approach to the release of this report. From the outset, parents raised with me issues about the transparency of the process and what is being proposed for publication seems somewhat cumbersome and unnecessary.

“I have no doubt a professional report will have been prepared, but we need to be cognisant that thousands of pupils, staff and their families, as well as other relocated community groups, were affected. The report seems to have been available for some weeks for other parties to peruse, so we need to understand why the council is only making this publicly available on the day.”

A council spokesman said: “The chief executive commissioned Professor Cole to carry out an independent inquiry into the closures and it’s important parents, councillors and other parties are able to hear his findings and recommendations when he presents to council on Thursday.”