Falkirk Council seeking ‘immediate’ assurances on safety of schools

Larbert High, above, and Grame, Braes, Bo'ness and Carrongrange schools were all built with PFI cash. Picture: John Devlin
Larbert High, above, and Grame, Braes, Bo'ness and Carrongrange schools were all built with PFI cash. Picture: John Devlin

Falkirk Council has asked the builders of its privately funded schools for “immediate” assurances they are safe in the wake of the Edinburgh schools crisis.

All councils in Scotland are monitoring their school estates after 17 in Edinburgh – five high schools, ten primaries and two special schools – were shut on Friday due to issues over their construction, affecting around 9000 pupils.

The crisis has left families struggling to find childcare for their children as they have no schools to go to until temporary accommodation for pupils is found.

The schools in question were built with private money through PPP (Public Private Partnership) schemes, similar to the PFI one in the Falkirk district which includes Graeme, Braes, Larbert and Bo’ness high schools and Carrongrange School in Stenhousemuir for children with assisted support needs back in 2000 by the Class98 (Semperian) consortium.

Falkirk, Denny, Grangemouth and St Mungo’s were all constructed using the NPDO (Non-Profit Distributing Organisation) scheme by consortium Gateway.

None of the local schools were built by Miller Construction, the firm which made the Edinburgh buildings.

A council spokesperson said: “The safety of pupils and staff in our schools is always our greatest concern.

“We have asked for immediate assurances from the companies involved in the running and construction of the schools that the schools are safe and structurally sound.

“We have also asked for a complete guarantee on these assurances and that they carried out their responsibilities correctly. This work will be carried out at no financial cost to Falkirk Council.

“Falkirk Council has nine schools built under PFI/NPDO by providers Gateway and Class98 (Semperian).

“All of our schools are expected to be open as normal following the end of the Easter holiday on Monday, April 18.”

Teaching union the EIS has called for a review of all PPP contracts across Scotland with concerns over how structural defects and significant faults could be missed by building control scrutiny.

The issue arose after structural problems at the Oxgangs school in Edinburgh were first discovered when part of a wall blew down during Storm Gertrude in January.

The school was closed in March after an investigation found problems with its walls. Three more schools, all part of the same PPP1 contract, closed less than a week later.