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)
I’m not surprised at all, having worked on some contracts where there was no Clerk of Works, the client relying on the local authority building inspector. I have also worked on projects ranging from fifteen to twenty five million pounds where the Clerk of Works visit was limited to four hours twice a week which had to include typing up his weekly report. It is also rare for Clerks of Works to be supplied with a full set of drawings and specifications, or office space on site from which to work, being expected to access drawings and specifications stored o servers, not much good on the 17th floor of an office block, all to save the a few pounds
I would be suprised if there was a Clerk of the Works as you remember them, no one wants to pay for a full-time on the job Clerk. Ad hoc inspections are what’s needed, defects and fundamental flaws can be covered up before s staged are carried out. Clients need to insist the Architect incorporates a CofW in the job administration or pay the price later.
An absolute disgrace! There needs to be an URGENT wider trawl of the Contractors involved as its likely that there were have been other buildings erected without that fundamental structural safeguard!
THIS WILL NOT BE THE FIRST OR LAST PFI/PPP CONTRACT WHERE SODDY AND UNSAFE WORK HAS BEEN CARRIED OUT.
Are we surprised, yes the Contractors were obviously at fault, but some responsibility has to be shouldered by the Clerk of Works & Building Inspector, where where they, quality control is what they are there for? Asleep on the job as usual, as they never accept any responsibility for mistakes & shoddy workmanship!
Is this not something that could have been checked by the Structural Engineers under the SER scheme?
If the facts become available it would be useful to consider root cause(s) and lessons to be learnt. Perhaps question if being a PFI/PPP is really a causal factor? Is it just about shoddy workmanship? Did the design include adequate header ties?
I’m not an expert on this, but I do have a niggling concern about wide cavities and the effectiveness of cavity ties in restraining large areas of single-leaf brickwork.
Who approved the work and signed off the building as complete?
They should be in the dock together with the contractors, any remedial work should be paid for by the consultants and the contractors involved.
To blame PFIs or PPPs does not really bear out. After Jarvis collapsed I was asked to complete 9 schools on the Wirral through MITIE. It was clear that the premise was to get the schools operating and attempt to complete the agreed works, but the problem came out that where cost was prohibitive then certain aspects would be held off until further into the life of the PFI.
The system is sound it is those that operate within it that need to understand what it is the product they are providing and then provide realistic expectations
All buildings are guaranteed for structural stability (sometimes10 years from the date of substantial competition);If this was a structural failure, then the main contractor & the design consultant both are responsible.
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