Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

'Poor construction' in Scottish school collapse

Oxgangs primary school edinburgh

Poor construction was to blame for a school wall collapse which led to 17 Edinburgh school closures, according to an independent report.

The School Closures Report said that inadequate supervision and poor construction were behind the collapse of a 9t section of external brickwork at Oxgangs Primary School during Storm Gertrude last January.

Engineers found an absence of “header ties”, sliding links that connected the inner block wall to the structural steel frame, during remedial works at the school following the collapse.

Evidence of structural problems were later found by operating body Edinburgh Schools Partnership at all 17 schools in the city built under a private finance initiative contract leading to closures lasting months at some of the schools.

The report recommended a radical shake-up of the construction process to avoid further incidents,suggesting that the issues identified in Edinburgh were likely to be more widespread.

The report, commissioned by Edinburgh city council chief executive Andrew Kerr and led by procurement industry expert professor John Cole, noted how the defects in the external wall cavity caused the collapse.

It found a “significant proportion” of the wall ties did not reach the minimum embedment of 50mm, particularly in the outer leaf of the cavity wall.

Primary causes were found to be shoddy bricklaying and poor positioning of wall ties; inadequate supervision; and an ineffective quality assurance process.

“All three issues were ultimately the responsibility of the contractor in charge of the site,” said the report.

The main contractor was Miller Construction, now owned by Galliford Try

A Galliford Try spokesperson said: “Galliford Try welcomes the publication of professor Cole’s final report following his independent Inquiry into the construction of Edinburgh schools and note its findings. Throughout the inquiry we have co-operated fully and openly at all stages.  

“It is a matter of record that Galliford Try acquired the historic liabilities for Miller Construction when it purchased the business in July 2014.   

“Galliford Try plays a leading role in public sector construction in Scotland, producing high-quality facilities that make a difference daily to people’s lives. We are committed to maintaining the highest standards of construction and health and safety to ensure that communities we serve can have the fullest confidence in the built environment around them.” 

The report also concluded that although the private finance model used did not have a direct impact on the quality of school construction, there were concerns that the way it was implemented, in that industry best practice was not used, increasing the risk of poor design and construction.

“We have fully cooperated with the council and professor Cole in trying to establish the facts of what happened with the schools affected. Having only just received a copy of the report, we will now take time to consider its findings in detail before commenting further,” said a spokesperson for Edinburgh Schools Partnership, which managed the PPP contracts,” said Galliford Try.

Key findings

  • The fact that no injuries or fatalities to children resulted from the collapse of the gable wall at Oxgangs School was a matter of “timing and luck”.
  • There was insufficient independent quality assurance and poor record keeping by the council and consortium Edinburgh Schools Partnership.
  • Edinburgh council was right to close a further 17 schools.
  • The underlying faults occurred during the original period of procurement, design and construction of PPP1 schools between 2000 and 2005.
  • Fire-stopping issues in the 17 PPP1 schools were raised and are now being rectified by the council.

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Please note comments made online may also be published in the print edition of New Civil Engineer. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.