Boy’s neck broken as school goalposts fall on him

Alan Ramsay. Picture: CompAlan Ramsay. Picture: Comp
Alan Ramsay. Picture: Comp
A 12-YEAR-OLD boy has suffered a broken neck after football goalposts toppled on to him while at school.

Alan Ramsay was knocked unconscious after crashing to the gym floor at Liberton High School while playing a game.

Classmates watched in horror as the posts collapsed after Alan jumped up to swing on the two-metre high crossbar during a PE class – briefly knocking him out and causing three serious fractures.

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His terrified mum raced to the school to find her 12-year-old son covered in blood and two bones sticking out of his mouth and neck before he was rushed to hospital.

Alan Ramsay who was injured in an accident at Liberton High School. Picture: CompAlan Ramsay who was injured in an accident at Liberton High School. Picture: Comp
Alan Ramsay who was injured in an accident at Liberton High School. Picture: Comp

Alan also suffered damage to a blood vessel in his brain, which left him at the risk of a stroke – although specialists believe he is recovering well. The shock incident happened less than a year after Keane Wallis-Bennett was crushed by a free-standing wall as she changed for PE at the same school.

The gym hall where Keane, 12, was killed last April has since been demolished, however memories are still raw for pupils and teachers.

Alan is being monitored by doctors and faces at least two months in a neck brace.

His shocked mum, Louise, told the News today how she ran from her nearby home when she received a call from the school office to say her son had been injured.

Liberton High School. Picture: Ian GeorgesonLiberton High School. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Liberton High School. Picture: Ian Georgeson

She said: “It’s just horrific. It’s every parent’s worst nightmare. You send your child to school and the next minute you find out that they are hurt.”

Ms Ramsay said she would never forget the sight of her son in the ambulance, covered in blood and with two bones protruding from his face and neck.

“I literally ran round the corner to the school,” she said. “It was traumatic for my son but also for myself.

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“I was told in the phone call he’d had a ‘slight accident’ and as a precaution they had rung an ambulance. When I saw the ambulance there he was covered in blood, and I saw he had a head injury so they needed to put the collar on him.

Keane Wallis-BennettKeane Wallis-Bennett
Keane Wallis-Bennett

“That’s when I found out he had been knocked unconscious. One bone was poking out from under his tongue, one was out under his ear.”

Alan was taken to the Sick Kids hospital, before being transferred to the maxillofacial surgery unit at St John’s Hospital in Livingston.

He was kept in overnight for surgery on his jaw, before a radiographer spotted a fracture at the top of Alan’s neck on an X-ray.

Brave Alan was then moved back to the Sick Kids after neurologists found the fractured bone had made a “kink” in a blood vessel in his brain.

Ms Ramsay said the tragic events in the school last year instantly came to mind when she received the call at around 9.15am last Thursday.

“I had everything going through my head after that girl last year,” Ms Ramsay said. “[After the incident] Alan’s best friend was sick, half of the first years were crying. They were all upset. They didn’t know if he was dead or alive.

“He was just lying there under the goalposts. Especially after what happened last year, they say it’s the curse of the PE department. I’m concerned about everything.

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“I know my son is old enough to know that he shouldn’t be playing on the goals, but surely they should have been secure? Alan is not the only child to swing on them.”

Alan was allowed out of hospital after his surgery and has since been resting at home in Claverhouse Drive, Liberton.

His young classmates have rallied around him and have been paying visits to cheer him up.

His mum said he was doing “as well as can be expected” and doctors are pleased with his progress so far.

The 30-year-old said: “He’s going to be in the collar for eight weeks and he’s going to be home schooled. I don’t want him to lose his education.”

She had initially tried to keep the extent of Alan’s injuries from her son, so as not to alarm him.

“When the doctor came in and told him he had a break in his neck, he got a big fright,” she said.

Alan instantly panicked and asked if he was paralysed, before he was reassured that his mobility was not affected.

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The traumatised youngster had managed to walk from the gym hall to the ambulance after coming round.

Doctors are still working out the best way to treat the “kink” in the blood vessel, as the issue is not common in children and can increase the risk of a stroke.

He returned to St John’s on Friday for a check-up on his jaw. Although doctors were pleased with his progress, his neck brace will make the healing process feel slow, as it restricts how much he can open his mouth.

While Alan’s recovery is her priority, Ms Ramsay said she is still reeling from how the incident was handled by the school.

Liberton High also hit the headlines in 2011, when a girl was seriously injured when she fell 16ft down a lift shaft.

She said: “I was raging. When [headteacher] Mr [Stephen] Kelly called me to find out how Alan was, I asked why I was just told that he’d had a little accident. I was screaming at him on the phone, saying I don’t understand how this happened.”

She admitted her son was “silly” to have swung on the goals, but said it raised wider issues about school equipment.

She said. “I get that he was playing on the crossbar but I don’t know how they managed to fall on top of him.

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“The goals are two metres high and he is 1.54 metres. He jumped up and swung from them. They haven’t secured them firmly enough.”

Despite her concerns, Ms Ramsay said she was heartened to hear that the council was already taking action following the incident.

A spokesman for the city council said: “We wish Alan a full recovery and the school are offering every support to him and his family to ensure his education continues while he is off. We take all incidents of this nature extremely seriously and immediate action has been take to prevent anything similar happening.

“The school has carried out a full risk assessment of all gym activities and other schools and community centres have been instructed to carry out an immediate review of similar equipment. The Health and Safety Executive has been informed.”

Keane’s death last April devastated the entire community and led to major checks of the city’s school estate. The gym hall where it happened was torn down and the existing PE block is to get a new extension.

The tragic events of April 1 last year came just weeks after the council was fined £8000 for a health and safety breach after a girl was seriously injured when she fell 16ft down a lift shaft at the school in 2011.

Millions needed to plug repairs gap

INVESTING in city schools has become a top priority as figures show the budget gap for long-term improvements is running to tens of millions of pounds.

A major probe into school buildings in 2013 found that, in total, around £80 million would have to be spent to bring clapped-out classrooms up to scratch.

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Education bosses have put together a £30 million plan to ensure all buildings deemed to be in poor condition are upgraded to at least satisfactory standard under tough Scottish Government criteria by 2019.

Around 22 schools, nurseries and other children’s centres were placed in a priority queue and are to benefit from investment in improvements including new roofing, ventilation, fire alarms and double glazing.

Parent and teacher leaders agree such a step is crucial to ensuring schools are safe and capable of meeting the demands of the new Curriculum for Excellence.

But there is also worry over a £17.2m deficit for day-to-day spending on repair jobs such as loose masonry, broken windows, heating failures and blocked toilets.

Figures released last year revealed education chiefs would have to spend around £24.7m to meet the shortfall but only £7.5m is available, leaving parents worried that schools are facing a build-up of safety risks from ongoing structural degradation.

City bosses insist cash is being invested and that they are closing the gap, with millions spent on new high schools at Portobello, Boroughmuir and James Gillespie’s, as well as replacement premises for St John’s Primary and St Crispin’s Special School. And a further £5m is to be spent on new classrooms at the most crowded campuses.


By Councillor Melanie Main, Education spokeswoman, Edinburgh Greens

THE backlog in improving school conditions has been well highlighted over the last year. A £25 million gap between what is needed and what is available has been scarcely bridged by up to £3.4m from last week’s budget.

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The reason for such a backlog is that far too little has been put into routine repairs.

I have heard too many stories from parents groups about having to fundraise to replace broken or ancient equipment to be confident that all is as it should be.

Our children and young people deserve to go to school in safe, well-maintained buildings and use equipment which is fit for purpose.

While I know that these standards are met in many cases there are obviously still failures. All schools need to be carrying out thorough and regular audits of equipment and they need to have up-to-date plans. Current budget cuts put added pressure on schools but the yawning gap in regular repair and maintenance has persisted.

There’s a culture change needed. Shiny new schools and major revamps are fantastic and necessary but it’s the unglamorous day-to-day stuff that needs to work.


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