Expert group to help improve Scots school safety

The gym at Liberton High School where Keane Wallis'Bennett was killed has been demolished. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The gym at Liberton High School where Keane Wallis'Bennett was killed has been demolished. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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EFFORTS to improve the safety of Scotland’s school buildings will be examined by an expert group set up by the Scottish Government.

Made up of education directors, local authorities, architects and surveyors, the group will work to improve guidance for assessing and reporting on the condition of council-owned buildings across the country.

The move follows the death of 12-year-old schoolgirl Keane Wallis-Bennett who was killed when a wall fell on her at Liberton High School in Edinburgh last year.

Pupils at the school were said to have warned staff about the wall being “wobbly” in the weeks before the incident.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive is ongoing, but the school gym where the incident took place has now been demolished.

The Scottish Government said the expert group would review existing guidance, which sets out a consistent approach for local 
authorities to assess and report the condition of their school estate.

Recommendations by the group on what improvements could be made to the current guidance will be reported to ministers by this autumn.

Education secretary Angela Constance said: “We want all our children and young people to learn in good quality schools that are safe and fit for purpose and we are working hard to ensure that is the case across the country.

“This review will ensure local authorities have up-to-date and clear guidance on how to accurately and reliably assess the condition of their school estate and I look forward to hearing the group’s recommendations later this year.

“The Scottish Government is committed to delivering high-quality, well-designed, sustainable schools. By 2020, more than 100 schools will have been rebuilt or refurbished across Scotland through our £1.8 billion Schools for the Future programme.”

Since 2007 the proportion of schools reported to be in “good” or “satisfactory” condition has risen to 83 per cent and the number of pupils in poor or bad buildings has more than halved. But according to figures released last year, more than 400 schools remain in a “poor” condition, with a further 16 rated as “bad”.

A spokesman for the Educational Institute of Scotland, the country’s largest teaching union, said the condition of the school estate had improved in recent years.

He said: “Following many years of under-investment in Scotland’s school estate, there have been substantial and successful programmes of school building and refurbishment since devolution, under the successive Scottish administrations. The launch of a national review of school building condition guidance is a welcome step.

“While there is much work still to be done to ensure that all pupils and teachers are working in up-to-date, safe and secure modern buildings, the overall condition of the national school estate has improved substantially in recent years.”