Safety fears have forced the closure of 17 schools in Edinburgh, Scotland, leaving 7,000 pupils at home after the Easter break.
Ten primaries, five secondaries and two additional support needs schools have been shut due to concern over the standard of construction carried out under a public private partnership (PPP) contract approximately 10 years ago.
The schools were built under a public private partnership 1 (PPP1) contract by the Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP). ESP is a consortium led by Amey and Miller Construction, which was acquired by Galliford Try in July 2014.
Edinburgh Schools Partnership will accept full financial responsibility for investigating and resolving these issues– Edinburgh Schools Partnership
The alarm was first raised in January this year when a wall at one of the schools, Oxgangs Primary, collapsed during high winds. Three other schools were later closed after inspections revealed problems with the way walls had been built.
Edinburgh City Council decided to close all 17 schools on Friday 8 April after EPS surveyors found a "completely unacceptable" standard of construction, the joint venture said in a statement.
"While carrying out remedial works on Friday afternoon (8 April), a new issue came to light at two PPP1 schools – Oxgangs and St Peter’s – relating to an absence of header ties in sections of the building," said ESP.
The statement added: "The standard of construction carried out by the building contractor is completely unacceptable and we are now undertaking full structural surveys on all PPP1 schools to determine whether this issue is more widespread. For the safety of all pupils and staff, the schools will be closed while this work is underway.
"Edinburgh Schools Partnership will accept full financial responsibility for investigating and resolving these issues to ensure that each and every PPP1 school undergoes all necessary remedial work. We would like to apologise to parents and pupils for all of the uncertainty and inconvenience caused, and give our sincere assurances that we will fix these issues."
The council’s chief executive Andrew Kerr said he could not be sure when all pupils would be allowed back.
Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, has called for a review of all PPP contracts in Scotland, questioning how such significant faults could escape building control scrutiny, reports BBC News.
Photograph: Drummond Community High School, one of the 17 temporarily closed (Drummond Community High School)