The mother of a pupil at a school at the centre of chemical contamination concerns says she will never send her son back to the campus, regardless of the findings of an independent review.
Josephine Morgan believes the site in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, is to blame for her teenage son’s sight loss.
A review of health and safety at the St Ambrose and Buchanan schools campus will be published on Friday.
The council and NHS deny any serious illnesses are linked to the site.
Ahead of the publication of the review, BBC Scotland commissioned soil tests on the land at the centre of parents’ concerns.
An expert said the investigation did not uncover anything overly concerning but some levels of toxic material were higher than expected.
North Lanarkshire Council questioned the methodology used to conduct the tests and said it was important to wait for the outcome of the review.
The independent probe ordered by government ministers will include the results of tests on the soil and water.
Education Secretary John Swinney has confirmed to parents that internal air testing has also been carried out.
In advance of that report, which is expected to be published on Friday, BBC Scotland ordered its own survey.
The limited surface soil samples were analysed in labs at the world-leading environmental research centre, the James Hutton Institute in Aberdeen.
Prof Andrew Watterson, a public health expert from Stirling University, said the results revealed an “incomplete picture”.
Full picture needed
They indicated that many of the chemicals tested were “well below levels of concern”, but in some cases levels were higher than might be expected.
Prof Watterson said: “There’s one or two chemicals there that would be of particular concern because of their toxicity and because of their long-term effects.
“There’s nothing that huge in there but there are some indicators of potential problems.
“It’s giving us an incomplete picture so I think we need to wait for the review, particularly with regard to water and soil screening that has gone on, to see whether we’ve got a full picture so it may be that everything is absolutely fine. It may be that more remediation is needed.”
Ms Morgan told the BBC her family’s life was “in limbo” while they waited for the results of the safety review of the school.
And she added that no matter what the review found, she would not be sending Tommy back to the school.
What is the issue at the St Ambrose and Buchanan campus?
The Townhead Road campus was built on a site used as landfill for industrial waste, including lead and arsenic, between 1945 and 1972.
Steps were taken to make the grounds safe before the campus opened in 2012, including bringing in fresh top soil.
But in March 2018, staff and students were given bottled water amid concerns about blue-tinted water coming from the taps.
Tests revealed higher than recommended levels of copper. It was blamed on corrosion and the pipes have since been replaced.
However, safety fears came to a head earlier this year after it emerged that four former or current members of staff at Buchanan High had been treated for cancer.
North Lanarkshire Council and NHS Lanarkshire said specialists did not believe cancer – or any other serious illness – was caused by the schools or the site on which they were built.
But it failed to allay the concerns of parents, pupils and staff and in June the Scottish government ordered an immediate review into health and safety at the campus.
A number of parents withdrew their children from the school and some teachers went on strike, with the NASUMT calling for the schools to close early for summer.
What are the parents saying ahead of the review’s publication?
Josephine Morgan says her 13-year-old son, Tommy, who has autism, has lost his sight. And she is convinced toxic materials from the schools’ grounds are to blame.
She said Tommy, who had attended Buchanan High, had become “obsessed” with the schools issue, was losing sleep and was “traumatised”.
Frustrated by his situation, he has become angry and abusive, his mother added.
“We’re broken”, she said. “I don’t think anybody actually realises what it’s like for your son to lose his sight – a wee boy who who’s only turned 13.
“Because of his autism, his life was computers, computer games, stuff like that. It’s absolutely devastating for the family, it’s devastating for him.”
If the government-commissioned review rules that the campus is unsafe and the schools are closed, Tommy will join his friends at alternative premises provided by the council.
If the school remains open, she said Tommy would be home-schooled.
She said: “I definitely won’t be sending him back, regardless of what the results say. No matter what anyone tells me, I will never believe any different. I just think with everything that’s going on in the school, all the illnesses, there’s nothing straightforward about it, everything is unusual.
“I just don’t believe that the school is safe and I’ll never, ever, ever send my son back. I wish I had known this last year and I would never have let him set foot in the place.”
What is the council saying?
North Lanarkshire Council has long maintained that there was no evidence to show that the schools and the wider campus was unsafe. And in June the local authority created a leaflet to provide further information and reassurance to parents, staff and pupils.
With regard to the soil tests commissioned by the BBC, the council raised questions about the methodology that had been used.
A spokesman said: “We asked the BBC a number of questions about the methodology used to ensure the samples were taken in appropriate conditions that meet industry standards. They flatly refused to provide answers to these questions. It is therefore impossible to have any objective confidence in their findings.
“Against that backdrop, we believe it is important to await the outcome of the ongoing independent review, which we would expect has applied these rigorous standards to the testing it has commissioned.”
The council previously said it always had contingency plans in place “should pupils, teachers or indeed any staff members require to be moved to a different premises or building”.