Bad ventilation incurs pound;8m bill

7th March 2008 at 00:00
Excessive temperatures and poor air quality in home economics, ICT and drama classrooms in Glasgow's secondary schools could cost up to pound;8 million to fix.

The Health and Safety Executive has ordered the city council and its school building partner 3ED to rectify ventilation faults. The council has accepted the findings.

The HSE was called in last year to investigate complaints by members of the Educational Institute of Scotland at two schools, Rosshall Academy and Drumchapel High, where it found breaches of a number of health and safety regulations in cookery, drama and ICT rooms.

A report to Glasgow City Council's executive committee today is warning that the ventilation problems are likely to be city-wide and may include some general-purpose rooms as well. The council is now facing tough negotiations with 3ED, its public-private partnership partner which built the schools and runs its facilities, over who is liable for the costs which have been estimated at pound;6-pound;8 million.

The council has been forced to act despite its own investigation in 2006 into teachers' complaints of excessive temperatures in classrooms, which found that most readings came within guidelines and met council requirements for the PPP contract. However, teachers remained concerned and the council and 3ED agreed to share the pound;1.3 million cost of installing ventilation in 67 cookery rooms. But the latest findings by the HSE at Rosshall and Drumchapel mean that the costs could be considerably higher.

Willie Hart, Glasgow area secretary for the Educational Institute of Scotland, said the work should be carried out without delay so that teachers and pupils could work in a comfortable environment. But Mr Hart has also raised concerns over the original building certificates. He described cases of pupils having to leave home economics classes because of temperatures as high as 35C. "That's fine if you are sitting on a beach in Spain, but it's not much fun for kids sitting Standard grade," he said.

Another of the union's complaints is that teachers were not allowed to turn radiators up or down, and that heat sensors were often located in staff bases where ambient temperatures were much lower than in classrooms with "30 sweaty children".

At this stage, the HSE does not plan to issue a formal enforcement notice, but may review this position if the council and 3ED do not implement its recommendations.

Gordon Matheson, executive member for education and social renewal, said: "We are obviously concerned by the HSE's findings at Rosshall Academy and Drumchapel High, which we accept.

"However, as we anticipate that conditions in other schools may be broadly similar, Glasgow City Council is now being proactive in looking at how best to address these issues in all 29 city secondaries."

He added that the council was compiling a draft timetable for carrying out the necessary works across the school estate. Due to the levels of disruption anticipated, the work would be carried out during school holidays whenever possible.

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