Hothouse schools are a pain in the throat

13th June 2003 at 01:00
GLASGOW secondaries that were hurriedly built through the public private partnership initiative are becoming synonymous with sick building syndrome.

A significant number of teachers are complaining of sore throats, headaches and eye conditions caused by badly ventilated, overheated classrooms. At Rosshall Academy in the Crookston area of the city, doctors and opticians are blaming the environment for their patients' difficulties.

The conference heard from Larry Flanagan, a teacher member of Glasgow's education committee, of the "ongoing saga" of heating and ventilation problems and poor cleaning standards in many of the city's 29 newly built or refurbished secondaries. "The tide has turned against public private partnerships," Mr Flanagan said.

Barry Carmichael, school rep at Rosshall, said he had never worked under such difficult conditions, although this was a brand new school. "Most of the rooms have four small windows with restricted opening so there are problems with natural light and ventilation. It is difficult to get a flow through of air without breaking health and safety regulations.

"If you take home economics, there can be 20 cookers working and the amount of water in the atmosphere makes the humidity incredibly high. People soon begin to feel sluggish, drowsy and sick," Mr Carmichael said.

Ventilation difficulties stemmed from lower than normal ceilings, smaller classrooms and smaller windows. "My own room is 25 per cent smaller than normal, down from 90 to 70 sq metres, and the volume has halved," he said.

Mr Carmichael, a science teacher, said that staff in Glasgow's 11 new-build secondaries were suffering most and many go home drained by the conditions.

At Rosshall, every room now has a fan, paid for through the school budget.

The authority was asked six months ago to monitor humidity, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and airflow but with a limited response, the union says. A committee run through the contractor, 3ED, has been trying for seven months to solve the problems.

Joe Linney, 3ED general manager, said: "Extensive additional works are involved, including modifications to the heating systems to improve controls."

A city spokeswoman said that if there were problems with air quality, they were not showing up in absence statistics. "However, when it was recently brought to our attention that staff at Rosshall Academy were concerned about air circulation and quality, we immediately asked environmental protection to investigate.

"They have taken an air quality monitoring unit to the school and are currently testing from classroom to classroom. We expect the results of those tests shortly."

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