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Scottish parliament to probe safety of PFI schools

The design of Scottish schools built under the private finance initiative is to come under fresh scrutiny – this time by members of the Scottish parliament.

According to CN’s sister title Architects’ Journal, Holyrood’s education committee will summon experts and officials to discuss the issue.

Last year City of Edinburgh Council commissioned architect John Cole to investigate work on a number of PFI schools in the city following the collapse of a wall at a primary school.

The incident led to the emergency closure of 16 other schools. Prof Cole’s report was damning of the construction work and quality assurance measures on the schools and noted that the issues identified in Edinburgh were likely to be more widespread.

Quoted by the Herald, Scottish education and skills committee convener James Dornan said: “There have clearly been some high-profile cases but our work will explore what the picture is across Scotland and, more importantly, what lessons can be learned to ensure this will never happen again and Scotland’s schools are well-built and safe places to learn.”

MSPs on the committee are expected to look into how education authorities can reassure parents and children that school buildings are now safe. 

The committee will also attempt to discover what lessons can be learned to help it manage future school building projects across Scotland.

In February, the Cole report attributed the failures to poor-quality construction and a lack of supervision, rather than design issues or the PFI funding model.

The problem across the school portfolio, which was constructed under a public-private partnership arrangement with Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), came to light after nine tonnes of masonry fell at Oxgangs Primary School during a storm in January 2016.

Wall ties were found to be missing at all 17 schools, and contractors had to carry out remediation work, requiring the relocation of around 8,400 pupils.

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