PCC May 2016 News

School Reopening, 17/05/2016

I’ve written to Andy Gray to ask if there has been any change to the anticipated reopening date on the 24th.  His response was:

“There will be updated communications this week. There is nothing which makes me believe the 24th is still not the expected return date.”

I specifically asked about the drill holes for the wall tie reinforcement, the rendering at the upper end of the affected Gable Wall and the plasterboard that can be seen waiting to go into the building.  The response from Patrick Brown was:

The external render has been recognised as an item to address over summer. The external cosmetic issues also.

The plasterboard will be for boxing in all the additional steelwork and will be subject to joints taped and filled for decorating. There are no associated wet trades.“

We’ve been here before, but it sounds reassuring.

Matters relating:

 Call for CEC Enquiry

City of Edinburgh Council (CEC) Corporate Policy and Strategy Committee today debated the Edinburgh Schools Report (provided to us by Councillor Rust in the first instance, and can be found here).  The committee debate webcast can be found here under Item 7.1 –Edinburgh Schools.  Much of the discussion centres around the setting up of an enquiry into the structural problems affecting those schools and public buildings built as part of the PPP1 project.

 Locality Meeting

Two members of the Parent Council attended a regular, Council led, Locality Group Meeting on the 11th May.  These meetings are a means for CEC to update parents and carers of all children in the South West Locality via Parent Councils.  These meetings also provide a means for parents to feed back to the Council and other parents.  In terms of school closures, the update from the Council was largely a re-iteration of the information already published on their School Closures website.  We were again able to share our experiences, particularly our concern that our children were sent back into a school that was subsequently declared unsafe (despite assurances that safety was a top priority), that some relocation decisions could have been better, and that – though they assert they have communicated – CEC’s communications were both last-minute and lacking in sufficient content to assuage the resulting anger and concern felt by the vast majority of all parents.

 Transcription of Parent/ CEC meeting on 26/04/16

The initial transcription of the audio for this meeting, held on 26/04/16, is now finished (thanks Gill), however, we need to go through it to make sure the content and attributions are correct.  Please be patient – the audio is still available under April news items.

Parking and other things, 17/05/2016

It’s been a fraught time for everyone at Oxgangs since the end of January, but I’m sure everyone would hope we come out of it stronger and more determined to do the best we possibly can for all children attending the school.

Before the wall collapse, the regular items on the Parent Council’s Agenda were parking around the school, dogs within the school boundary and dog fouling around the school.  These matters are once again becoming a concern.

We appreciate that some may take being challenged on these things personally, may be offended at being challenged, or think that its unreasonable to be challenged for seemingly minor infringements under extenuating circumstances, but it really is this simple: the safety of all children attending the school must be our top priority and we’re all responsible – we all have to care about it.

Within the last 18 months there has been at least one near miss around the school where a child narrowly avoided injury from being hit by a car. One child too many.  At drop-off and pick-up times the roads around the school are very busy and congested, not only by those attending Oxgangs, but also Firhill and Braidburn, as well as other peak-time passing traffic.  Parents running late or under other external pressure sometimes park unlawfully, e.g., on the zig-zag lines outside the school gates.

Beyond raising it with the local authorities the Parent Council can only re-iterate what the rules are and that Edinburgh Council and the Police are taking an increasingly active interest, not only as a result of parents individually voicing concerns, but also, unfortunately, it has led to abusive exchanges between parents.

Zig-Zag lines:

Instruction on the operation of Zig-Zag lines can be found here and here but the main points are as follows:

Yellow zig zag lines can be found at the entrance or exits of hospitals, fire stations, police stations or ambulance stations and are used to indicate the length of road where you should not wait, stop or park a vehicle.

Where there is an upright sign, there is a mandatory prohibition of stopping during the times shown. (This is the case at Oxgangs)

Yellow and white zig zag road markings are placed to show that the area must be kept clear to allow an unrestricted view for approaching drivers and riders or children wanting to cross the road.

School Car Park:

The school car park is intended for the use of staff at Oxgangs and Braidburn schools it is not intended for use by parents or carers during school hours, the exception being for those with valid disability badges. Amey prior to closure, has started to enforce this restriction.

Recommendation:

If parents cannot find a legitimate parking space around the vicinity of the school then the recommendation is that they park in the Tesco car park and walk their children to school from there.

There are no ideal solutions and Oxgangs is not alone: some primary schools in the capital are currently piloting a project to completely ban cars from outside the schools for an hour at the beginning and end of the day to alleviate similar problems.  The Parent Council is opposed to this as a solution for Oxgangs, but without parental co-operation and respect for other children, other road users, and the laws of the highway, we would have little evidence to demonstrate that we all take child safety seriously.

Dogs:

Dogs are not allowed in the school playground, unless they are registered assistance dogs.

Many parents have mentioned to us that their children have an innate fear of dogs –please, if you bring a dog to school, be considerate and keep it on a short leash around the school and tether it away from main entrances and exits if you intend entering the school playground.

Owners of dogs fouling outside the school playground who fail to remove the faeces are committing an offence under the Dog Fouling (Scotland) Act 2003 and are subject to a fixed fine.

We extend a heartfelt thank you to all parents who do handle their dogs with care and consideration.

Firhill Partnership Project, 17/05/2016

Some of you may have noticed that construction of the health centre at the entrance to the school car park is seemingly underway.  Construction of this facility, first proposed in 2007, has been a long standing item on the Parent Council agenda and we have been involved in the various consultations for this project.  Our standing concern is that the site is operated safely during construction, specifically that safe pedestrian access to the school is preserved.  I have had no adverse comments so far and the site appears to be well enclosed and in good order.  Please get in touch if you have any concerns.

Links, 17/05/2016

I’ve added some links to the links page: more will be added in due course, but if you have a link to a resource that you think would be useful to Oxangs’ parents, then please send it in.

May Fair, 17/05/2016

All things going to plan, this year’s May Fair will be held at the School on Saturday the 28th May.  The May Fair is one of the main parent led fund raising events, funding which goes to ensure all children have experiences and facilities which the school cannot otherwise provide.

Volunteers are still required to help set-up on Friday the 27th May and on the day.  Anyone wishing to help, who’s not already volunteered, please drop an email to: oxgangspta@yahoo.co.uk

Other than that – please support this happy community event.

PCC Apr 2016 News

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 29/04/2016

Released at 4 pm today, Edinburgh Council indicate that Oxgangs will reopen on the 24th May.  This re-opening date is amongst the earliest for the affected schools.  The announcement was made on the Council’s School Closures site.

Councillor Aitken has asked if this date was reliable given the timescales to complete the work, the inspection by ESP, Amey, the Risk Register and the independent engineer.  Alistair Gaw indicated that this date should provide sufficient contingency for all these tasks, and indicated any slip in timescale would be communicated immediately.

Councillor Rust has forwarded on his members brief, which can be read here.

After a long winter of uncertainty, this is good news.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 27/04/2016

Meeting with Council Officials, 26/04/2016

The arranged meeting between parents and the City of Edinburgh Council officials took place last night, 7pm, at the Edinburgh Council offices in Market St.

Attendees

We had apologies from one co-opted parent due to unavoidable family circumstances (unfortunately too late to replace) and from Councillor Jason Rust, who had a prior engagement.  I had contacted Des French at ESP, who indicated he could not attend due to existing confidentiality agreements, but who indicated he would forward my request onto Miller Construction.  I heard nothing further from either ESP nor Miller Construction.  Consequently, those attending the meeting were:

 

Crerar Christie chaired the meeting.

All present agreed that the meeting could be recorded.  The recording can be heard using the player below: the file is very large for download.  The recording has been filtered for noise level and amplified but is otherwise unedited. Please get in touch if it doesn’t work.  We are endeavouring to transcribe this recording, however, this is a lengthy process for a two hour meeting and will involve some checking – please be patient.

Main points

It was generally agreed that we had had a robust meeting.  The feeling after the meeting was that the Council officials had been open and frank about what they could and could not say; if they couldn’t say, they typically explained why. The main findings of the meeting are as follows:

  • Alistair Gaw opened with an apology to Oxgangs, on behalf of the Council, for the upset and upheaval endured over the previous months.
  • At this time the Council do not know when the School will re-open.
  • The Council are awaiting a report from ESP which will give a schedule of anticipated works for all affected schools.  This report was due last Friday, but had been delayed till this Friday (the 29th).  The Council will be in a better position to announce the likely timescale for reopening Oxgangs once in receipt of this report.
  • The furthest the Council officials would say was that, by their understanding, Oxgangs would be one of the first schools to reopen.
  • The Council assured us that, as well as the Structural Engineers brought in by ESP, the Council has sought their own independent Structural Engineering expertise to ensure a robust assurance regime for signing off completed works, i.e., ESP would not be self-certifying the remedial repairs.
  • The existing structural problems relate to the wall ties – which connect the outer brickwork to the inner blockwork, and, the header ties – which connect the top of the inner blockwork to the structural steel frame of the building, preventing the inner wall panels, or at least the upper part of the wall panels, from toppling over in extreme events.  The wall ties were found to have insufficient depth of embedment – either the ties were too short or the gap between the walls was too great.  The existence of header ties is a more difficult problem to diagnose – engineers have to establish if such ties are required (i.e., if wall stability is provided elsewhere), and if so, how many should there be, and where are they located.
  • The existing building failures are not progressive in nature, i.e., they would not result in any subsequent failure mechanism of the structure.
  • Prior to remedial repair the structure was considered sound under typical environmental loads, but was vulnerable to further damage under exceptional weather conditions.
  • At this time the Council are not aware of any further structural issues affecting the school building.
  • The Council was asked why, given the catastrophic nature of the initial wall collapse and the associated risk of subsequent failure, the school was not shut until a thorough structural assessment had taken place and a comprehensive remedial repair plan had been developed and executed.  The Council indicated that the engineering advice at the time, based upon visual inspection, was that the building was sound, however, the question remains otherwise unanswered.
  • It was noted that little work appears to have been carried out at the school over the last week or so and parents asked what pressure the Council could bring to bear on Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP) to ensure the work was progressing as quickly and as safely as possible.  The Council indicated that they were withholding payment to ESP until such time as the works were complete – which was the contractually stated means of address.
  • The Council indicated that ESP was a funding vehicle for the PPP1 project and that they themselves were neither an engineering nor a property management organisation.
  • The Council indicated that it was their expectation that ESP would pick up any costs associated with compensation.  However, it is unclear whether ESPs admission of liability provides a means for organisations, such as the After School Club, or parents, employers, etc. to claim compensation for loss of earnings, etc.
  • It was pointed out to the Council that parents felt they had poorly communicated information regarding the closures of the school and subsequently.  The Council indicated that all information is posted to the Schools Closure website as soon as possible and that parents should always check there first.
  • The matter of the WHEC temporary location for P6 and P7 children was raised.  The Council acknowledged that the WHEC accommodation was thought to provide a reasonable short term solution, as was the original expectation, but not long term.  The Council were thanked for acting quickly to remedy the situation once it became clear it was a problem.  The head teacher stated that their assessment was that the internal space could be made to work as a teaching environment, but apologised to those parents who feel unable to put their trust in her because of this, and encouraged parents to please come to her first with any problems and issues they feel are affecting the safety or education of their children.  The meeting unanimously thanked Mrs Walshe, and her team, and offered their support.
  • The Council were asked why closer school accommodation was not considered, for example Tynecastle.  The Council indicated that they had considered Tynecastle but that there were logistical reasons why it was not currently the best option, however, they will continue to review the situation.
  • The matter of lost education time was raised.  The Council indicated that the only way they could ensure no further loss of education time was to ensure that the transport to other schools ran efficiently.  It was pointed out that all the staff had been putting in a lot of extra hours in the current circumstances and it was made clear that the Council would not be asking teachers to work any additional hours.
  • It was pointed out that this crisis has resulted in the biggest decant of school children in Edinburgh since the second world war.

If anyone who attended this meeting feels like I’ve mis-represented any issue, or omitted a pertinent issue, please get in touch and I’ll amend.

Web Page Address

A more readable web page address has been created for these pages: http://tinyurl.com/OxgangsParent

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 25/04/2016

Meeting with Andy Gray (26th April)

I have created an Agenda for this meeting tomorrow night and have included some questions beneath – this can be found here.

I would invite any parent with a question or issue they’d like to raise to please use the “Comments” box on the “About Us” tab to let us know, or, email them directly to oxgangspc@gmail.com.

Attendees

Two people initially indicating a willingness to attend this meeting have unfortunately had to withdraw.  I have replaced them with the next chronological responders.

The current list of people representing parents at the Meeting on Tuesday is now therefore:

WHEC

Well done to the many parent campaigners who raised and fought for this issue to be resolved.  The Parent Council made representation about the matter to Andy Gray, but are under no allusion that it was combined Parent Power that effected change.  Andrew Burns released this email earlier today.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 24/04/2016

Meeting with Andy Gray (26th April)

I have compiled the list of people who submitted a request to attend this meeting between Andy Gray and the Parent Council.  Again, I appreciate it’s not what everyone wants and I appreciate people may feel frustrated about being unable to attend, but we have done our best to be fair to everyone.  I would also like to sincerely thank the Parent Council members who have stood aside to let other parents attend and those who have offered.

I received 2 email representations and 12 online.  I’ve included a screen shot of the online submissions with the time-stamp.

The list of people representing parents at the Meeting on Tuesday is therefore:

I will post a broad Agenda for this meeting and a call for questions from the Parent Body tomorrow morning.

PLEASE NOTE.  Unfortunately, after taking advice about some comments made on social media we have had no option but to change the venue for this meeting.  The meeting will now be held in Waverley Court, the Council offices in Market Street, Tuesday 26th April, at 7 pm.  If anyone is unable to attend we will seek to replace with the next chronological name in the list.

WHEC

Many of you may be aware, either through social media or STV news that parents have objected to the accommodation provided at the Wester Hailes Community Centre (WHEC).  We are also aware that Cllr Corbett has been communicated about this and is pursuing.  Earlier this evening thiscommunication was issued by Andrew Burns, Council Leader.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 22/04/2016

Update provided by Councillor Rust:

Members’ Briefing 519: PPP1 schools update 22 April 2016

Edinburgh Schools Partnership has advised the Council that it should not expect to receive details of when the PPP1 schools will be available for pupils until the end of next week.

We had expected to have a clearer picture by the end of this week and I am disappointed that this information has been delayed.

We have been in constant dialogue with the Edinburgh Schools Partnership and they are aware of our concerns.  It is important that we have clear information regarding the condition of these schools and when they will be safe to reopen.

I know that parents, teachers and pupils will share my frustration at this delay. The safety of our children is our number one priority and we all want our schools to reopen safely, as soon as possible.

We are doing everything we can so ESP can provide the Council with the information which will allow us to make a decision regarding the next steps.

As soon as I have further information I shall update you.

Andrew Kerr

Chief Executive

Change to website News layout:

These news items were becoming a little un-wieldy to manage and access. Therefore I’ve moved all items onto pages for the Months the items were published (opposite). Latest news will appear here, and will be subsequently moved to the relevant month on update.

Extraordinary Parent Council Meeting:

We will remain open to requests to attend the meeting announced yesterday until 5 pm today.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 21/04/2016

Extraordinary Parent Council Meeting, 26th April:

I have asked Mr Andy Gray, Head of Schools at City of Edinburgh Council to attend a Parent Forum meeting, i.e., a meeting of all parents.  He declined.  We have no powers to compel him to attend any meeting. However, Mr Gray was willing to attend a Parent Council meeting, including up to about 20 parents and this is the announcement for that meeting.

Currently, the Parent Council has about 10 parents who have actively pursued the interest of all parents since before, long before for some, the wall was pulled off the end of the school.  Consequently, we would like to invite 10 more parents.

Any parent who wishes to attend should make themselves known to us using the “Comments” form on the “About” tab of this website.  This is so we can manage and minute the meeting in an orderly manner.  We have already had some parents with a knowledge of construction and construction law make themselves known to us – and we’d welcome others with this sort of expertise so that we can make best use of Mr Gray’s attendance.  However, we will welcome any parent who indicates their desire to attend and will allocate places on a first come basis.

Subsequent to arranging the meeting we invited the owner of the Oxgangs Information Service Facebook (OIS FB) page, however, regrettably, and without prejudice, he is unable to attend due to a prior business commitment.  We would warmly welcome anyone who could represent the views of those participating on the OIS FB page – again please let us know if you wish to attend in this role.

Mrs Walshe and Miss Mercer usually represent the teachers on the Parent Council and I believe they, and perhaps other teachers, will be in attendance also.

Councillor Elaine Aitken regularly attends Parent Council meetings and has been invited in this context.  I have also invited Councillors Corbett (who has accepted) and Rust.

I have also invited representation from Edinburgh Schools Partnership, particularly someone who can tell us what the structural problems were with the building, and hopefully reassure us that the building will be (more than) fit for purpose.  Again, we cannot compel anyone to attend, and there may be pursuant legal issues which would prevent such attendance.

Again, we do appreciate that numbers are limited, however, we hope to make the best out of a limited opportunity.  The meeting will be minuted and we’ll publish the minutes on this website for all to access.  We can then subsequently address any matters arising or issues that the parent body believe we’ve failed to address.

We did not wish to wait to hold this meeting until the School re-opened, therefore the meeting will take place in the Centenary Hall at Craiglockhart Parish Church.  It will start at 7 pm and will go on till 9 pm.

The Agenda for the meeting will address:

1. The structural integrity of the School building

2. The decisions made by the Council relating to School Closures

3. What are the lines of accountability in design, build, repair and

compensation.

4. How do we go forward with confidence.

Again, if you would like to attend, please indicate this to us by using the “Comment” form on the “About” page and we will do our best to accommodate you.

Change to website News layout:

These news items were becoming a little un-wieldy to manage and access. Therefore I’ve moved all items onto pages for the Months the items were published (opposite). Latest news will appear here, and will be subsequently moved to the relevant month on update.

Correspondence from Andy Gray to PC Chairs:

Mr Gray sent all Parent Council Chairs and update on the PPP1 closures –alas, there is nothing new.  The letter can be read here.

 

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 15/04/2016

Councillor Rust has begun to receive some answers to the points raised last week.  I received this email just before lunch and it’s content can be found here.  I have also received an update from Councillor Aitken, here.

Parent Council comments on Councillor updates:

If you listened to some of the commentary on Radio 4 last week, you will appreciate that opinion is split as to whether PFI is an effective method of funding public construction projects.  Clearly, our experience would suggest that it is decidedly not.  It is astonishing that ESP was allowed to self-certify so such an extent!  We had an extension put on the side of the house – the council engineer was all over the structure to make sure it was built as per the building warrant – where on earth were the controls for the PPP1 builds?  If the council can send an engineer out to our house to check compliance, one would expect they would be sure to send one to check a building they themselves were paying for… or rather paying for with public money. Saying “However, the regulatory system acknowledges that local authorities cannot reasonably monitor each and every aspect of all construction work being carried out” seeks to obfuscate.  Again, the Council spent (are spending) a lot of public money on these buildings, under a new type of contract, and one would reasonably expect that, though a Council Engineer was not necessarily in daily attendance, there would be some regular independent presence to certify the work done, especially since the contractor (i.e., the builder) was not meaningfully accountable to the consultant (i.e. the designers), as they were both under the same ESP umbrella.  Inappropriate trust was placed in ESP and the contract must have allowed or promoted it.

Parent Information Service:

My wife forwarded me this post:

More action from Jason Rust who has been asking some pertinent questions. Thanks for being a champion of our cause. They aren’t answering my questions so far! Council still absolving themselves of any responsibility devil emoticon

Can the Parent Council (if you are lurking?) confirm the accuracy of the close working statement please?!”

The quote refers to Councillor Rust’s question (which can be found in the document link earlier in this post) about the Council arranging a public meeting for all affected schools.  The actual wording of the Council’s response is “We are liaising closely with the parent councils of schools and will continue to do so” – please note the plural, the context, and that the Council believes they are “liasing with” rather than “working with”.

In response: first, the council are making a general statement – Parent Councils are, as advocated in the Scottish Education Act (2006), the conduit for information between the School, the Council and the parent body, and so they are stating, in effect, that they are acting – or will act – in a statutory manner.

Second, we have heard nothing from the Council in respect of a public meeting – Cllr Rust indicates the Council responded that there were “No current plans for this”, and, again, this would square with the fact that we have heard nothing about it.  Again, my assumption is that this meeting would be for parents with children at all affected schools, not just Oxgangs.  For those unaware, Jason’s email is a round robin, not a specific epistle to Oxgangs.

Third, and finally, the question to us is phrased to imply that the Parent Council is somehow colluding with the Council and concealing information from the Parent Body.  I’ve provided the full document so you can make your own minds up, but I’m afraid the question is based upon an inaccurate representation of Councillor Rust’s communication.  However, if you truly believe this is how we’re operating, please come along to the next Parent Forum in September, which is open to ALL parents and carers of Oxgangs pupils, get yourself elected, and you can work to improve what we, and those before us, have done in trying to make it an effective body to represent all Oxgangs’ parents.

There is an email address and an on-line form, both of which can be found on the “About” tab of this website, which can be used to contact us (though email is likely to get a quicker response).  Also, I’ve been hanging around –could this be construed as lurking?! – the Astroturf gate adjacent to the main school gate during morning drop off should anyone wish to speak to me directly.  I would ask parents who have queries or issues they wish to raise on behalf of all parents to raise them with us directly.  We will continue to do our best to represent the interests of all Oxgangs parents, whom we are constituted to represent.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 16/03/2016

After seeking more information from various sources, the Parent Council has received a Q&A sheet about the recent school closure.  This document can be found here.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 14/04/2016

Updates from Councillors Rust, here, and Aitken, here.  Thanks to both.

Headline is that the Council have been given early warning that there is evidence of faults across all schools, but that it is too early to say what the impact will be of the full survey.

At this time, we are not aware of any change to the state of affairs at Oxgangs: faults have been identified and repairs are underway.  Council cannot provide date for completion of works as ESP cannot assure such, but estimate repairs will take in the order of weeks rather than months.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 13/04/2016

The School returned to its contingency arrangements this morning, and apart from grey skies and rain, everything seemed to go smoothly.

Teaching Staff:

We are aware that there have been calls for teachers to catch up teaching time during holidays and suggestions that they have had extra time off. The situation is that leadership and staff of the School were again tasked at the last minute to reinstate contingency arrangements to maintain teaching, subsequent to the Council’s decision making.  From what we know, the teaching staff have gone over and above the call of duty to make this happen.  Indeed, from what we understand, other schools now affected by closure have, or are, modelling their contingency measures on Oxgangs.  We understand that it’s not perfect: some children have limited capacity to go outside for a break, some environments are not what our children are used to, however, we are assured that all temporary locations have undergone a risk assessment and are occupied accordingly.  Personally, I was lucky enough to see a remote location for myself this morning before the pupils arrived, and thought the staff had put in a lot of care and attention to make it as much like the Oxgangs setup as was possible.  Given the Oxgangs building was closed, the number of different locations to deal with, and the increased demand for resources; putting together this sort of arrangement at short notice over two days deserves much credit.  We all have our personal opinions: my personal opinion is that the staff – who were hard at work on the two days “off”, and some of whom also have families affected by these closures – are as much victims of the unprecedented circumstances ensuing from the Oxgangs wall collapse as anyone else, yet they have done their utmost to maintain a safe, stable learning environment whilst under significant pressure.  From parent comments made to me, I know this is not my opinion alone.  Accordingly, the Parent Council wishes to offer it’s sincere thanks to all Oxgangs staff.

After School club:

After School Club has once again managed to make the same alternate arrangements as previously.  Text message has gone out to parents with instructions.  Please also inform ASC if your child will not be attending.

Extraordinary Parent Council Meeting:

I am trying to get an alternative location for an Extraordinary Parent Council meeting.  Once I have a venue and some dates I’ll post further details.  I will invite Council officials, ESP, and Councillors though we cannot compel anyone to attend.  However, we have had affirmations that Mr Gray is willing to attend a Parent Council meeting.  I have asked that it be a Parent Forum meeting, but this request was declined.  We wish to seek some insight on the circumstances surrounding the initial wall collapse and the ensuing events, so would ask that if there are any parents with a background in construction, or with a knowledge of contract or construction law, who would wish to attend, that they make themselves known to the Parent Council using the email provided in the “About us” page.  We are trying to be as open and as inclusive as we can possibly be.  We will invite the Parent Information Service Facebook page owner, and will ask him to invite a number (I don’t know how many yet) of parents who are active on the FB page.  I would also like to ask that if there are any parents who wish to attend, who are concerned but who neither have affiliation with the Parent Council or the Information Facebook page, that they similarly make themselves known to the Parent Council.  We are limited in maximum numbers, and preference will be given to those “non-affiliated” parents, so to speak, who have made representation to us previously.  Again, I’m trying to be as fair as I can be whilst trying to seek some light, as opposed to heat, that we can share with all parents.

Compensation:

Evening news has various articles relating to the “Schools Crisis”.  Lawyers suggesting parents have a case for compensation, ESP indicating that it will be up to the Council how any financial settlement agreed with ESP should be used.  The Parent Council is not constituted to represent parents in this regard: parents should seek professional personal, or class, representation.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 12/04/2016

Hopefully everyone knows by now the pupils are to return to school tomorrow, where the prior contingency arrangements will be reinstated. Teachers were expecting to return to the School building after Easter and so had recovered all their teaching materials from the “temporary” locations, however, subsequent to the recent structural findings, they have once again had to establish themselves remotely.

Other than being told it would be a matter of weeks (best guess at the time was two weeks) rather than months, I have no further indication of how long these measures are likely to be in place: no parent can be satisfied with this situation.

Councillor Aitken has provided us with the information provided to Councillors on school closures, and these two updates can be found here –versions of these can be found on the Schools Closure site.

The issues surrounding the structural faults at all school buildings in relation to the PPP1 contract continues to receive much media attention. So that no other school befalls the same fate, or worse, as Oxgangs, it is vitally important that the reasons for these, now apparently systemic, building failures are understood.  At a City level at least, points 5, 6 and 7 from an Emergency Council committee meeting held today give us some hope, however, we must continue to push for answers.  Councillor Rust provided us with his notes form this meeting, which can be found here.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 11/04/2016

Council is due to provide an update via their website at around 7 pm tonight (www.edinburgh.gov.uk/schoolclosures).  Fuller version, from Councillors Aitken and Rust, can be found here.

Two other schools confirmed as having the same building faults as Oxgangs – reported in Scotsman, here.

Detailed accounts of the ongoing saga of event on the BBC, esp. Radio 4 Today program who spoke with both Andrew Kerr and, in a later slot, with those concerned with assessing the value of the PPP model, and also online here.  Also background article on the issue in the Evening News here.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 10/04/2016

Earlier this evening Councillors Aitken, Corbett and Rust provided the Parent Council with a copy of the latest update from the Council, which is now available at the School Closures website: (www.edinburgh.gov.uk/schoolclosures).

I’m afraid there’s not much new in the statement with respect to Oxgangs, other than notice that the existing contingency measures of bussing to nearby schools is likely to recommence.

Mr Gray later wrote to me indicating that bus transport required finalising and that his expectation was that parents would be contacted tomorrow, the 11th, to confirm these arrangements.

I have had further communications with Mr Gray, seeking further information on the nature of the new fault, how long it is likely to take to repair, and if he can give us any assurance that this will be the last “surprise” in store for us.  The content of the communication can be found here.  In summary, the fault relates to the absence of Header Ties; repairs will take a matter of weeks (perhaps two) rather than months; and full structural reports have been carried out for all PPP1 Schools.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 09/04/2016

The Parent Council wrote to Andy Gray, Head of Schools at City of Edinburgh Council, yesterday.  A copy of this letter can be found here.  Mr Gray responded by assuring us that he acknowledged the frustration and disappointment felt by parents and indicated that he would get back to us with detailed responses.

Councillors Aitken, Rust and Corbett have been, and will be over the weekend, active in raising our issues and in seeking answers to our questions regarding the state of the building and what contingencies will be in place going forward.  Councillor Burns, the Council leader, has replied to Jason Rust’s enquiries, and this communication is attached here. It is interesting to note that the Council consider ESP to have let everyone down in this matter.

Finally, Councillor Rust has supplied ESP’s letter to the Council, sent yesterday, withdrawing confirmation that the Schools could re-open. Worryingly, with regard to Oxgangs and St. Peters, the letter states that the design and build contractor had “discovered further serious defects as a result of which it has advised that these schools are no longer safe to occupy.”  This letter can be found here.

Clearly, it is apparent that the Council are dealing with a systemic failure relating to PPPI building projects that extends further than Oxgangs alone.

Further details regarding Oxgangs are likely to emerge over the weekend: the Parent Council will post any additional information it can to this site.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 08/04/2016

Along with everyone else, the Parent Council has just been informed that, despite repeated assurances to the contrary, Oxgangs will not now open on the 11th.  Details have been texted to parents and are available at the Council website: www.edinburgh.gov.uk/schoolclosures.

The Council appear to have removed the expert letters from this page, but these can be found here.  These letters are short on detail concerning the structural integrity of the building and the assurances, given by Amey to the ESP, that the school will be safe to open on the 11th April can only be implied.

The Council have suggested that “parents consider childcare arrangements for next week”: such oblique suggestions are not considered helpful, nor do they inspire confidence in parents that the school will re-open any time soon.  We await word on contingency arrangements – with a continuing angst about the impact these closures and contingencies are having on our children’s education and safety.

As parents ourselves, we are angry at yet another last minute announcement, angry that a proper and complete structural survey was not undertaken at the time of the initial collapse so that proper planning could have taken place at that time rather than this piecemeal approach. The Parent Council is taking these points to Andy Gray, is seeking more information on the “new issues relating to the school’s construction” in terms of the safety of the building and the timescale for it reopening, is seeking guarantees that our children’s safety will not be compromised at any stage, guarantees that no further teaching time will be lost, and will reinforce that many working parents are significantly impacted by such last minute decision making.

Keep watching this space for further details.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 07/04/2016

Latest information is that Oxgangs is still set to reopen on the 11th April. Please check www.edinburgh.gov.uk/schoolclosures for more information. No further ParentMail will be issued (wrt post. On 03/04/2016).

Letters from ESP (Edinburgh Schools Partnership), Amey and Will Rudd Davidson can be downloaded from this site.

Andrew Burns confirms that all costs will be covered by ESP.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 03/04/2016

Councillor Elaine Aitken was in touch with Andy Gray last week.  He informed her that there was a meeting with the Edinburgh Schools Partnership on Friday (1st April).  On prompting, he indicated that “He heard nothing at the meeting that would indicate that the school will not open on Monday 11th April as per his ParentMail letter to parents.” He also indicated that it is the Council’s intention to provide a formal update on Wednesday the 6th April.

PCC Mar 2016 News

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 26/03/2016

Councillor Elaine Aitken has indicated to the Oxgangs Parent Council (OPC) that the St Peter’s Parent Council meeting was held on Tuesday, and that she had requested a rep. From Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP) or from Children and Families (C&F) attend to answer St. Peter’s Parent Council questions.  She has offered to seek their attendance at the next Oxgangs PC meeting.

The OPC will seek to bring our next meeting forward to a date in April, and ask both in our own capacity, and through Councillor Aitken to request attendance from ESP and/or C&F representative.  Please check in for further details after the Easter break.

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 24/03/2016

Councillors Jason Rust and Elaine Aitken have put forward a motion at the Pentlands Neighbourhood Partnership (an advisory committee of the council) – the motion can be found here.  The motion was unanimously approved and should prompt a report back on the points noted.

Councillor Rust is still seeking access to the report paid for by Edinburgh Schools Partnership into the construction issues.  Councillor Aitken has indicated that the Q&A on the Council website will be updated to reflect the latest info. next week.  The Q&A can be found at the following webstite: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/schoolclosures

School Closure and Remedial Repair, 24/03/2016

Update following conversation between PC Chair and Andy Gray, Head of Schools at City of Edinburgh Council. Today.  These are my notes from our conversation.

Structural stability of the school:

Mr Gray indicated that the Engineer’s report concluded that the core structure of the building was sound.  He indicated that the lastest findings of the engineers had concluded that, while cladding was sufficiently strong to withstand normal weather conditions, exceptional weather conditions (winds over 100 mph) may cause further damage.  He went on to indicate that the remedial repairs to the remaining external cladding will provide additional strength over and above the design requirement.

Timescales:

Mr Gray indicated that he was waiting for a report from the Edinburgh Schools Building Project before he could issue an update on the school closure via ParentMail.  He indicated that he hoped to be able to issue the ParentMail today, or tomorrow, the 25th.

Mr Gray stated that his intention is to have the school reopen after the Easter break.  With the problems recently found at St. Peters, he was not in a position to guarantee that all the remedial repairs to any school would be complete.  He indicated that the sequence was likely to start with strengthening around the entrance/exit points to the school and proceed from there.  If there remains any further areas requiring remedial repair after the Easter break, these would be made secure such that the school could reopen.  Mr Gray indicated that his expectation, based upon Engineering reports, was that all remedial work (i.e., strengthening of the cladding attachment) and repair work (i.e., rebuild of the gable wall) would be complete by the end of the summer break and that the Engineering works would provide a very high level of structural integrity.

Communications:

Mr Gray acknowledged that the original notice of closure was at very short notice and could have included further information regarding the stability of the building so as to not unduly raise concern amongst parents. However, the council only received the Engineering report in the middle of the afternoon of the 15th . Once they had read it and decided that the safest option was to close the school, there was very little time to write at length about the reasons for the closure, the priority being to inform parents that the school had to close for reasons of guaranteeing safety.