Call for schools where teachers developed rare cancer to shut early

The St Ambrose and Buchanan High joint-campus in Coatbridge
The St Ambrose and Buchanan High joint-campus in Coatbridge
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Unions and politicians have added to calls for the early closure of two secondary schools where four teachers have developed the same rare form of cancer.

Buchanan and St Ambrose High schools opened seven years ago in a purpose-built campus built on a landfill site used to dispose of lead, arsenic and other industrial waste.

Concerns over the safety of the campus in the North Lanarkshire town of Coatbridge have escalated in recent weeks after it emerged four current or retired teachers at Buchanan High have been treated for cancer.

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Three of them worked in the same corridor at Buchanan High, where pupils and staff were told not to drink tap water after it turned blue Parents raised concern at a recent public meeting, citing nosebleeds, sickness and other similar symptoms amongst pupils.

Fulton McGregor, the SNP MSP for Coatbridge and Chryston, has urged North Lanarkshire Council to avoid taking any “unnecessary risks” and close the campus “immediately.”

He said his office is receiving reports of various health concerns on an “almost daily basis,” prompting him to ask NHS Lanarkshire to screen those people who are worried about their health.

The NASUWT teaching union has also said the local authority should close the schools early for summer while safety concerns are investigated. The union has asked for a full site survey to be carried out with an updated risk assessment of any toxic substances.

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A spokeswoman said: “Our members would also like to see the council close these schools early for summer.”

The union’s members at Buchanan High are due to strike on Thursday, followed by colleagues at St Ambrose a week today. In all, around 40 teachers will be taking part in industrial action.

Last week, Deputy First Minister John Swinney announced an immediate independent review into health and safety at the two schools in the hope of providing reassurance.

Des Murray, chief executive of North Lanarkshire Council said: “Specialist doctors from the public health department of NHS Lanarkshire have confirmed that no incidence of cancer is linked to the schools. They have also confirmed that no other serious illness is connected to the schools or the site on which they are built.

“All the facts from all the lead organisations continue to confirm that the schools and the site on which they are built are safe.”

Mr Murray added: “The council will continue to liaise directly with trade unions on matters of concern to staff and officers met with staff at a meeting on site today. We will also be sending parents and carers detailed factual information by post this week.”