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Safe, secure and efficient buildings

On behalf of members of the Educational Institute of Scotland at Hillpark Secondary in Glasgow, we would agree with the serious health and safety concerns expressed by our colleagues at St Roch's Secondary who are also undergoing refurbishment as part of the city council's privatisation of school facilities. (TESS, June 1).

Work has only recently started at our school but we are less than impressed by the performance of the council, consortium and contractor involved. A lack of communication is clearly leading to a dangerous and unsatisfactory pattern of brinkmanship which can only be described as crisis management which threatens to undermine both the safety and continuity of education in the school. Information we have sought has not been forthcoming.

Two incidents highlight the problem. First, there was an announcement at a full staff meeting by the contractor's representative that the myths surrounding asbestos only exaggerated the dangers, not least by asbestos removal contractors themselves. These comments were found to be not only incompetent but offensive. No apology has been issued to staff.

Second, the day before the uncontrolled demolition of the drama studio during normal school hours, our reasonabe suspicions of asbestos in the area were confirmed by a last minute survey and the demolition proceeded only after controlled removal of the asbestos.

We are clear that there are no safe levels of asbestos and are pledged to guarantee the full protection of staff and students from lethal contamination. Hillpark EIS has agreed to demand a series of reassurances and information to secure a safe and efficient refurbishment which both protects and provides educational continuity over the next 43 weeks.

These demands are necessary if Hillpark and other schools in Glasgow undergoing refurbishment are to avoid the mistakes made at St Roch's.

Parents also have to be reassured, which secrecy and evasion clearly fail to do. Bob Gray, Glasgow's education convener, would be much better off addressing the real issues which concern parents than engineering diversions (TESS, May 11).

The city council's commitment to the privatisation of school facilities is a matter of record and completely irrelevant to the serious concerns that the overwhelming majority of staff in Hillpark and St Roch's have for themselves and their students.

Hugh Donnelly

EIS representative

Hillpark Secondary


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