Councils fail to stop the rot

12th September 1997 at 01:00
Inspectors demand action within a year as eight schools are declared unfit to learn in

The Inspectorate has given black marks to three councils over lack of action in tackling essential school repairs. In reports that provide a snapshot of accommodation inadequacies from Lewis to Lenzie, HMIs express dissatisfaction with responses in eight out of 27 follow-up inspections of schools. They are demanding action within a year.

Four of the schools are in Glasgow, underlining once again the city's school building crisis. The backlog of repairs and maintenance is put at more than Pounds 50 million and council leaders hope for a sizeable chunk of the Pounds 15 million the Government has set aside for "spend to save" initiatives, but this depends on a closures package. They also plan to use up to Pounds 1.7 million to rectify defects highlighted by HMI.

Meanwhile schools like the 800-pupil Hyndland Secondary have to live in the present. Improvements are included in Glasgow's capital plan, but HMI states pointedly: "The school anticipated no action in the immediate future."

The council is also taken to task for failure to comply with recommendations on Drumry primary, which like Hyndland suffered from an invasion by pigeons who have now returned. Work to cordon off three rooms which had been declared unsafe as a result of a fire in 1995 had not been completed, and no repairs had been carried out to ill-fitting windows and doors.

Golfhill primary had only ad hoc repairs to roofing leaks and plans to reroof the school had been continually postponed. There were also problems with heating and the possible relocation in the building of Westercraigs nursery would exacerbate the situation for Golfhill pupils and staff who would have to move into colder areas.

Bishoploch primary remains "in a very poor state" despite repairs to all the broken windows. "The surfaces of external and internal walls were still broken, parts of the playground surface remained dangerous and the temporary classroom in the playground continued to be in a particularly poor condition," the report states.

Problems at two Renfrewshire schools are also highlighted. Parents of children at Houston primary remain concerned about safety as the playground gives open access to the public, while Castlehead High in Paisley still required work on damaged flooring, water leaks, plasterwork and toilets.

The Western Isles, which has frequently been on the receiving end of HMI criticism over the state of school buildings, is again in the dock, over Airidhantuim primary in Lewis. The inspection published in May last year presented the council with a six-point list of urgent health and safety issues.

When HMIs returned to the school in June, they discovered dim lighting in the main corridor had still to be rectified, water was still seeping into a classroom despite action to make it wind and watertight, some sharp edges at head height remained on the outside of the building, flaking paint and fungal growth had not disappeared from the "unpleasant" dining hall, and the playground surface had deteriorated since the inspection despite short-term measures to improve it.

East Dunbartonshire is the final authority to have its knuckles rapped for allowing Lenzie Academy pupils to share access to the grounds with vehicles. Physical education facilities continued to suffer from budget constraints.

Count down to collapse

Glasgow fears a crisis in the late 1990s as buildings with differing life spans deteriorate. The council puts schools into four categories: * Victorian (dating from around 1896), built to last 80 to 100 years.

* Pre-war (built in the 1920s), life expectancy 40 to 80 years.

* From 1956 onwards, designed to last 30 to 40 years.

* 1960s "boom" buildings where major problems arose within 15-30 years.

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