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Wall Tie Defects Found In East Kilbride School
East Kilbride Green Party Member Kirsten Robb
South Lanarkshire Council are insisting secondary school pupils in East Kilbride and Rutherglen are safe – despite admitting defects in schools built under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme were known four years ago. A BBC documentary "How Safe is My School", aired on Monday night and highlighted issues at Trinity High in Rutherglen.
A Freedom of Information request revealed repairs had to be carried out in Duncanrig Secondary following the collapse of a wall in stormy weather during the Christmas break in 2012.
However, the council failed to inform parents at the time repairs to faulty wall ties had to be carried out following investigations by structural engineers.
This led to further investigations in schools across South Lanarkshire and five faulty wall ties were then replaced at St Andrew’s and St Bride’s High School.
The same issues have since come to light during the Edinburgh schools scandal, which saw buildings shut after a wall at Oxgangs Primary collapsed sparking safety fears at PPP buildings across the city.
South Lanarkshire Council said none of the contractors who built the Edinburgh schools were involved in replacing East Kilbride’s three secondary schools.
But South Lanarkshire Greens are now calling on the council to carry out a full investigation into how the faults occurred and are accusing the council of keeping parents in the dark over potential risks to their children’s safety.
In 2005, at the height of the secondary school modernisation programme, South Lanarkshire Greens wrote to the council responding to widespread community concerns about the design of the new buildings and the extreme lack of consultation.
Due to the dearth of information about the schemes, the Greens put in a Freedom of Information request to try to scrutinise the plans.
These revealed a number of issues of concern about building quality, process of developing the schemes and the lack of scrutiny of final plans or finished building.
Kirsten Robb, an East Kilbride-based Green activist and parent of two children, said: “As a parent I want my children to learn in a safe, well-designed building.
“Sadly many pupils in South Lanarkshire will be saddled with these buildings for years to come.
“It is shocking the council have not informed parents about the building defects even after they have been revealed by the media.
“It seems they are happy to spend public money but not keep the public informed about how it is being spent.”
She added: “Our evidence shows that the Secondary Schools Modernisation programme was raced through from start to finish and the final quality of buildings suffered as a result.
“These most recent revelations show that 10 South Lanarkshire high schools, including St Andrew’s and St Bride’s and Duncanrig required repairs due to structural defects.
“This is what you get when you don’t take on the most up-to-date guidance on building quality and design and when you side-step proper public consultation and scrutiny on such large projects.
“A full inquiry into what happened and the lessons to be learned are now essential.
“And this time, parents must be kept fully informed.”
Councillors in South Lanarkshire were told during a briefing this week investigations into the 2012 storm damage in East Kilbride and Trinity High in Rutherglen revealed issues with a small number of wall ties and that remedial works were completed at Duncanrig by the end of March.
In April this year, following the Edinburgh schools’ scandal and receiving specific details on the building defects discovered in the PPP buildings, the council undertook further physical surveys in a sample of school sites.
These surveys showed no structural defect as experienced by Edinburgh Council.
SNP East Kilbride Central North councillor Sheena Wardhaugh said her party were satisfied with the safety of the schools but called for more information for councillors.
She said: “We are talking about something like 62 wall ties out of 240,000. It is a minor issue.
“The buildings are not a cause for concern but what does give us cause for concern is the transparency of information to elected members.”
A South Lanarkshire Council spokesperson said: “During a period of exceptionally strong winds four years ago damage occurred at Duncanrig Secondary School.
“This resulted in repairs being undertaken. As a precaution, thorough structural checks were also carried out by independent structural engineers at all of our secondary schools, but these identified no significant issues.
“Duncanrig has always been and remains a safe and inspiring place of learning for young people. Right from the design stage we set out to ensure our school buildings were of the highest specification and quality.
“We wanted to create safe, modern and sustainable schools to help deliver the new curriculum and provide first class learning opportunities for our children and young people.
“There is no doubt this significant investment by the council has vastly improved the quality of our school estate, which after all, is what we set out to achieve.”