A report on crumbling schools has concluded it was luck that no children were killed
The independent investigation was commissioned after a gable wall collapsed at the city’s Oxgangs Primary School during a storm in January last year.
The incident led to 16 other schools – all built or refurbished under the same public-private partnership (PPP) – being closed while safety checks were carried out.
Overall, around 7,600 pupils were affected by the closures, which caused chaos across the Capital.
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The report states: “The fact that no injuries or fatalities to children resulted from the collapse of the gable wall at Oxgangs School was a matter of timing and luck.
“Approximately nine tons of masonry fell on an area where children could easily have been standing or passing through. One does not require much imagination to think of what the consequences might have been if it had happened an hour or so later.”
The 10 primaries, five secondaries and two additional support needs schools were built or refurbished under a PPP managed by the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP).
A gable wall collapsed at the city’s Oxgangs Primary School during a storm in January last year
They were built by Miller Construction, which was acquired by Galliford Try in 2014.
Approximately nine tons of masonry fell on an area where children could have been standing
The inquiry, led by experienced architect Professor John Cole, interviewed representatives of those who built the schools, architects, structural engineers, parents, teachers and current and former council staff.
The 250-page report, which criticises Miller Construction, Edinburgh City Council and the ESP, reveals that the wall collapse was among five avoidable such incidents amid bad weather which “proper quality control” could have prevented
Overall, around 7,600 pupils were affected by the closures, which caused chaos across the Capital
It said: “The reason that the incidents are described as avoidable is that in all cases it would appear that proper quality control at the time of building could have identified and have rectified the basic defects in construction that led to the failures.”
IThe report attributed the Oxgangs collapse to “poor quality construction”, concluding that not enough wall ties were used, the wrong type of ties were used and the wall cavities were not uniform – issues that were “ultimately the responsibility of the design and build contractor in charge of the site.”
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The 250-page report, which criticises Miller Construction, Edinburgh City Council and the ESP
It also criticised inadequate supervision; insufficient independent quality assurance and poor record keeping by the school, and ineffective quality assurance measures within the construction industry.
The council made the correct decision by closing the 17 schools for safety checks, the report concluded but it made a series of recommendations for the local authority and other bodies, both public and private, as well as the construction industry.
The ESP has confirmed that all remedial works identified in autumn 2016 are complete and the schools are safe to occupy.
In addition to the 17 premises affected in Edinburgh, the report also found evidence of “construction defects” in other Scottish schools of panels of brick or blockwork that were not securely fixed.
Prof Cole also highlighted issues relating to fire safety in schools built under the initial PPP project, and has been working with the ESP to investigate concerns.
Edinburgh council chief executive Andrew Kerr will now draw up an action plan specific to the council recommendations to ensure they are all addressed individually.
He said: “The report pulls no punches and makes clear what went wrong, the reasons for it and where responsibility lay.
“Clearly, there are lessons for the council and I will now be drawing up an action plan to take our recommendations forward to ensure everyone can have confidence in the safety of all of our buildings.”
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