Call for school maintenance deadlines to be met in wake of near misses

Liberton High School. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Liberton High School. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Building materials have collapsed or fallen 20 times at Edinburgh schools in the past two years, including three incidents at Liberton High where a pupil was tragically killed after a wall fell on top of her in 2014.

Conservative councillors have called for the city council to make sure building maintenance at schools is completed on time after it was revealed six incidents have already taken place since pupils returned to lessons in August.

Another ten incidents of items falling onto pupils and staff have been recorded during the past 22 months.

The three incidents at Liberton took place this year despite a survey in 2017 judging the school was in ‘satisfactory’ condition, meaning the building was “performing adequately, but showing minor deterioration”. The satisfactory rating meant the school missed out on a guaranteed reconstruction in favour of Currie High, Castlebrae High and Trinity Academy.

In the latest Liberton  incident on 16 August, a piece of plaster fell from an area above a doorway and “hit a teacher on the head”. The member of staff was not believed to have been injured.

Two separate incidents took place on 17 April at the school involving ceiling tiles.

One tile fell very close to a 12-year-old pupil, while another narrowly missed a teacher. Contractors performing heating upgrades at the school during the Easter holiday were blamed for poor workmanship and were suspended.

Labour Liberton Cllr Lezley Marion Cameron said ward councillors and the parent council had not been informed about the August incident.

She said: “The parent council have worked so hard over the many years and they’re being let down. I have called for funding to be given to the council for the new buildings and to ensure all schools are safe, especially Liberton, given its age and its history.”

Pupil Keane Wallis-Bennett, 12, was killed at Liberton High School when a changing room wall collapsed on her in April 2014.

In total, ten of the incidents at schools since January last year resulted in injuries to either pupils or staff and three caused damage to property and equipment, while 15 were classed as near misses.

Conservative Edinburgh group chairman Cllr Jason Rust said: “Any reports of incidents due to falling structures or objects in our schools are of serious concern, including the numerous near misses highlighted.

Cllr Rust added: “Parents need reassurance that the buildings in which their children are educated are safe and that the council is taking appropriate action, including preventative inspections and surveys.”

Liberton parents and staff expected planned maintenance work to be completed over the summer holidays, but it was not finished as initially thought.

A council spokeswoman said: “Safety is an absolute priority for the council. We take all incidents extremely seriously and fully investigate any that have occurred in our schools.

“We are currently in the first year of delivering a planned £153 million investment programme across the whole council estate, including schools.”