Edinburgh Pupils 'Back In Classrooms Next Week'

Council officials hope all primary pupils will be back in classrooms by next week after 17 Edinburgh schools were closed over safety fears.

Around 7,000 primary and secondary school children were unable to return on Monday after the Easter holidays following the decision to shut the buildings amid concerns about the standard of construction.

The 10 primaries, five secondaries and two additional support needs schools will remain closed while detailed structural surveys take place.

They were all built under the same PPP contract.

The closures came after workers repairing serious structural issues at one city primary found ''further serious defects'' in the building on Friday.

Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), which operates the schools, could not provide safety assurances and the local authority made the decision to shut them from Monday.

The city council said early indications suggest the issue that prompted the decision has been identified in other buildings but officials were unable to confirm the the extent of this.

Contingency plans have been drawn up to allow primary pupils to return to lessons by Monday next week, with alternative arrangements possibly in place by Wednesday in some cases.

The local authority said "significant work'' had already taken place to make sure the 2,000 S4, S5 and S6 pupils affected will be accommodated in high schools in the city.

Senior pupils from Firrhill, Drummond and Royal High schools will be able to return to their own schools on Wednesday as these three schools only had partial refurbishments as part of the PPP project, it said.

An update for S4, S5 and S6 pupils at Gracemount and Craigmount will be made on Tuesday while work continues to identify alternative arrangements for all S1 to S3 pupils in the five high schools.

Offers of support to accommodate pupils have come from a range of organisations, including Hibernian Football Club, the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh University and NHS Lothian as well as various community groups.

Andrew Kerr, Edinburgh City Council chief executive, said: "We have plans in place to ensure all primary and special school pupils will be back in schools by Monday of next week subject to the council getting access to the closed schools.

"Our focus is very much on getting our school children back into education as soon as possible. That remains our priority, particularly for those pupils preparing to sit their exams in May.

"ESP are continuing with their programme of inspections which began on Friday, and have committed to providing new information as and when it becomes available.

"I fully recognise the significant inconvenience to parents caused by these closures and I want to thank them for their patience as we continue to work through this issue. I can assure them that as soon as we have new information, we will pass it on. Daily updates will also be available via the council website.''

Scotland's largest teaching union, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), has called for a review of all PPP contracts in Scotland and the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association (SSTA) questioned "the cost to our children'' of such deals.

The Scottish Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) demanded the termination of all PPP contracts.

Other local authorities said they have carried out, or are carrying out, safety checks.

A Government spokeswoman said: "The Scottish Government has offered its full support to City of Edinburgh Council to keep disruption to children's education at an absolute minimum and has written to all local authorities to ask them to carry out any necessary checks on their own estate as soon as possible."

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