By Bill Heaney
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today revealed that thousands of pupils across Scotland are at risk from schools with potentially deadly concrete.
New research by his party found that 19,322 pupils are currently on the roll at schools which have reported the presence of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).
At least 38 named schools, including the John Logie Baird PS in Helensburgh, have been found to contain the dangerous building material. The combined pupil roll of all 38 is 19,322.
Scottish Liberal Democrats previously revealed that RAAC is present in two dozen Scottish university and college buildings, as well as at least four health boards.
Jenny Gilruth, Scotland’s education minister – “isolated incident”.
Mr Cole-Hamilton has consistently called on the First Minister to set up a fund to support the removal of RAAC from buildings such as schools and hospitals.
UK Schools minister Nick Gibb told the BBC’s Today Programme that “over the summer” the government discovered a number of instances where RAAC that had been deemed low risk “actually turned out to be unsafe,” including a beam which collapsed that had no external signs that it was a critical risk.
Mr Cole-Hamilton, left, said: “This new Scottish Liberal Democrat analysis shows that almost 20,000 pupils attend schools across Scotland that are now grappling with potentially deadly concrete.
“The news of the temporary closure of Forres Academy will worry many. With new evidence suggesting that even walls and panels previously deemed safe have still been found to collapse, the Scottish Government must urgently devise a proper plan of action and resolve this issue for good.
“It baffles me that the government can say it was aware of the problem, and yet no money has been set aside to deal with it.
“The Scottish Government cannot kick the can down the road any longer. The Education Secretary should be meeting with education leaders to discuss a rescue plan and funding for remedial work which should begin immediately. Parents need to be able to send their children to school confident of their safety.”
NOTES: You can find a spreadsheet containing pupil rolls for all schools across Scotland here
You can watch Cabinet Secretary for Education Jenny Gilruth describe the collapse of a school beam in Dunblane as “an isolated incident” here
In June, Mr Cole-Hamilton called on the First Minister to set up a fund to support councils and health boards in removing the material from buildings such as schools and hospitals after his party uncovered that RAAC was present in at least four health boards and 37 schools across Scotland.
In July, it was reported that pupils at Cramond and Trinity primary schools in Edinburgh will be taught in portable classroom units following the discovery of RAAC. In August, Perth and Kinross Council and Moray Council announced work to remove RAAC panels from local schools.
Subsequently Scottish Liberal Democrats revealed that West Lothian and East Lothian councils had indicated to the Scottish Government that tackling the use of RAAC in their buildings could cost more than £80 million.
The party also revealed that it will take NHS Scotland 6-8 months to assess the prevalence of RAAC of in its boards, but that practical work to do this has yet to be done. Information on Lothian councils identifying more than £80m worth of work to cope with RAAC here.
Previous Scottish Liberal Democrat research on the prevalence of RAAC in schools can be found here.
Top of page: John Logie Baird PS in Helensburgh where crumbling concrete has been discovered.