Science labs are 'truly appalling'

Room 27 at Dalbeattie High is "just awful" and "possibly qualifies for the unenviable title of the worst lab in Dumfries and Galloway", a scathing review of science laboratories in 10 of the council's secondaries has revealed.

Wilson Flood, a consultant and former science adviser, examined 70 rooms and concludes that 47 labs need refurbishment over the next eight years and 16 "fall far below a minimum standard for a modern working environment".

Some rooms are described as "disgraceful" and "unsafe" and suffer from water damage, rotting fabric, cramped conditions and inadequate water and gas supplies. Dalry Secondary was not inspected as the condition of the unimproved lab is well known. Only labs at secondaries in Castle Douglas, Lockerbie, Langholm and Stranraer and at St Joseph's College, Dumfries, avoided scrutiny. They have been or are being renovated.

Elsewhere, five of the nine labs need upgrading at Douglas Ewart High, Newton Stewart. The fabric is "very basic, with narrow side benches which are beginning to rot". Two chemistry labs have no fume cupboard.

Kirkcudbright Academy has one modernised lab but the other five are "very dated". Room 23 is a chemistry lab but has water only to the central benches.

The report on Dalbeattie High tops the hit list. "Room 16 has a very spartan appearance with gas and electricity being fed to tables in what looks like a suspiciously unsafe manner. Room 17 is a converted library and looks it. It is very cramped and is hardly what a modern science teaching area should be. Benches are becoming loose, giving a possible gas hazard."

And then there is room 27.

Sanqhuar Academy has five unmodernised labs, one of which is permanently out of use. Water services are generally poor.

At Wallace Hall Academy, Thornhill, seven labs are awaiting modernisation, as are nine at Dumfries Academy. Neighbouring Dumfries High has four out of 12 labs that are "truly appalling and in desperate need of modernisation".

Mr Flood notes: "It is unfortunate that the first three of these four labs constitute most of the biology department. Lab 1 also has stairs down into it which is interesting from a health, safety and access point of view. The windows in these labs are also in very poor condition and it would be worth while considering replacing windows when labs were done. I must emphasise that these four labs are in a disgraceful state."

Labs at Maxwelltown High, also in Dumfries, need attention, as do the 11 labs at Annan Academy, two of which are out of commission when it rains. At Moffat Academy, HMIs criticised science accommodation as inadequate in terms of the number of teaching areas.

Ken Macleod, director of education, said it would cost Pounds 1.7 million to upgrade all the labs at an average cost of Pounds 35,000 a room. The Government's capital spending windfall will allow just Pounds 245,000 over the next four years.

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