Buchanan High School, St Ambrose High School and Townhead Community Centre, Coatbridge

Buchan-St Ambrose cover image

Update - Friday 30 August 2019

Chair and scientific advisor appointed to Buchanan and St Ambrose High Schools campus site recovery group

One of the recommendations of the independent review was the establishment of a site recovery group.

The group will meet for the first time in week beginning September 9, and the council is pleased to announce that Terry Currie DL has agreed to be the independent chair of the group.

Mr Currie is currently the chairman of The State Hospitals Board for Scotland and a depute lieutenant of Lanarkshire. His full-time working life was mostly with British Steel - latterly with a subsidiary company which had the remit of regenerating regions which suffered from steel plant closures - and Scottish Enterprise.

He was a founder member of the Lanarkshire Civic Pride campaign in 1991 and previously served on the boards of New Lanarkshire Ltd, the Scottish Manufacturing Advisory Service and Scottish Business in the Community, as well as being the chair of the Scottish Steelworkers Memorial Committee. He was also a non-executive director of NHS Lanarkshire between 2004 and 2012.

Dr Christine Davidson has agreed to serve as scientific advisor to the group. Dr Davidson is Reader in Pure and Applied Chemistry at the University of Strathclyde. Dr Davidson's research is in the area of environmental analytical chemistry, especially the development of new analytical methods to assess risk to human health and the environment from priority pollutants. Recent studies have focused on the study of urban soils and inhalable airborne particles, and on contaminated land, sediments and waters.

The group will comprise representatives from pupils, staff, parents and other users of the campus.

Mr Currie said: "I am very much looking forward to getting started with the group. I agree with the review authors that the group has a key role to play in restoring confidence and in receiving monitoring reports on water and air quality from the council. We will also be able to hear any concerns from the campus community and formally engage with the council to raise these."

Des Murray, chief executive of North Lanarkshire Council, said: "I am delighted that Terry Currie has agreed to serve as chair of this group. It's essential that the group is independent and is able to have open and frank discussions, and the appointment of such an experienced chair is a significant step forward. I'm also very pleased that Christine Davidson has agreed to be the group's scientific advisor. Dr Davidson is a genuine expert and her input and advice will be invaluable.

"The group will be able to call for reports from any part of the council and feed back formally to the council. The council will not have a representative group member because its independence is so crucial, but we will ensure, through a liaison officer, that the group's views are heard."

The group's terms of reference are:

  • To receive and consider ongoing monitoring reports from North Lanarkshire Council in respect of water quality, indoor air quality and the gas membrane
  • To receive and consider reports from North Lanarkshire Council about works to address ground settlement on the campus and other ongoing maintenance
  • To question officials from North Lanarkshire Council about these reports and raise any concerns about their contents
  • To seek the opinion of independent experts on monitoring results
  • To raise concerns about any health, safety or maintenance issues in respect of the campus
  • To publish periodic reports on the group activities to be shared with the wider campus communities and the Education and Families Committee of North Lanarkshire Council

Update - Monday 2 September 

Please note that the shower facilities at both schools and Townhead Community Centre were reinstated and back in full use on Monday 2 September with minimum disruption to users. 

Update - Thursday 29 August 2019

We are working through the implementation of the independent review's recommendations on the campus as quickly as possible. 

The campus has two separate water supplies; one for drinking water and one for non-drinking water.  The independent review, while finding that drinking water met all of the relevant standards, highlighted some anomalies in test results taken from some outlets of the non-drinking water supply and suggested that Scottish Water and council carry out further investigations. 

This programme of testing of the non-drinking water supply is ongoing.  As a result of this necessary work, the shower facilities in both schools and Townhead Community Centre will be temporarily out of commission from today, Thursday 29 August.  In addition, there will be no access to Townhead Community Centre on Saturday 1 September and Sunday 2 September, although the sports pitches will be open. 

We apologise for any inconvenience this necessary work will cause.  We will reinstate the shower facilities as soon as possible and post further updates on this page. 

This does not affect the drinking water supply, which is from a separate mains source and which meets drinking water standards.

Update - Tuesday 20 August 

Recommendation 2 of the independent review set out further water monitoring required. The first set of monitoring tests have been carried out and show that the drinking water in the campus meets quality standards. We will keep monitoring the drinking water and publish the results on this page.

See the latest results pdf icon here [1007kb].

We are also working on recommendation 5, the establishment of a site recovery group. We expect to be able to tell you more about the group later this week.

Update - Thursday 15 August 

St Ambrose and Buchanan High Schools welcomed all pupils at the campus today.  Tomorrow (Friday 16 August) will see the normal curriculum resuming and all staff returning to work.  Townhead Community Centre is open for bookings as normal.

Update - Wednesday 14 August 2019

The NASUWT trade union has informed the council of its intention to suspend strike action involving its members, with those staff returning to work on Friday 16 August.

The council welcomes this decision, which follows constructive and positive discussions.

Both Buchanan High School and St Ambrose High School will be open as normal to pupils on Thursday 15 August with a very small number of exceptions at Buchanan High. However, the NASUWT decision means that the schools will run as normal from Friday 16 August.

An independent review into the schools published last week found that they were safe and there was no link to any illness.

Update - Tuesday 13 August 2019

Coatbridge schools welcome pupils back to school

North Lanarkshire Council has confirmed today (Tuesday) that Buchanan and St Ambrose High Schools will be open to pupils for the first day of term on tomorrow (Wednesday), but with some curriculum changes for Buchanan.

Despite positive discussions with NASUWT, the trade union was unable to confirm that it was in a position for its members to return to work in time for the start of the new term.

St Ambrose High will be open for all pupils as normal. Because of the impact of the NASUWT action and the safety considerations for pupils with additional support needs, a very small number of pupils at Buchanan High will be unable to attend based on detailed individual risk assessments. The school is in the process of contacting the parents of these pupils.

Derek Brown, executive director of education and families at North Lanarkshire Council, said: "We are pleased that the independent review found that the schools and campus were safe and that there was no connection between the schools and any illness.

"Despite positive discussions with NASUWT officials, where the council was able to answer a number of questions, the union has been unable to confirm that their members will return to work in time for the return of pupils. That is regrettable.

"The council will never take risks with pupil safety. While there will be a limited impact for St Ambrose High School, we are able to provide education for all pupils. For Buchanan High School, the needs of the pupils are such that we have carried out detailed individual assessments, based on each pupil's specific needs.

"As a result of those assessments, a very small number of pupils will be unable to attend Buchanan High School for the first day of term. We fully understand the impact on those pupils and their parents and are sorry they find themselves in this position.

"During our discussions with NASUWT we listened to the concerns expressed by their members. We reiterated the central findings of the independent review about the safety of the schools. We also reinforced our commitment to implementing all of the review recommendations quickly. We welcome the positive spirit in which these talks were carried out and look forward to further discussions over the next 24 hours.

"I would also like to place on record the council's appreciation of staff, parents and pupils during what has been a difficult time for these schools. The council is determined to move on positively and collaboratively and we look forward to doing so."

Further updates for Thursday 15 August and beyond will be announced in due course.

Update - Monday 12 August 2019

In response to the independent review's Recommendation 1, remediation of the location of a single soil sample on the edge of the site, where PCBs were detected, has now been carried out.  The work took place on Saturday 10 August and involved the removal of topsoil and laying of a geomembrane under concrete slabs. 

The work was observed by the independent experts who carried out the site investigation for the review team and they have confirmed that the work carried out removes exposure to soil at this location by users of this site.  Their confirmation of this can be found pdf icon here. [168kb]

In response to the independent review's Recommendation 4 regarding the release of records of periodic testing of the membrane, please find below service records for maintaining the gas-resistant membrane and venting system, together with examples of recent monitoring reports for methane/CO2. 

Examples of additional historical data from methane/CO1 monitoring can be seen here.  Due to the volume of data, we have provided examples over the years.

North Lanarkshire Council has welcomed the report of the independent review into Buchanan and St Ambrose High Schools in Coatbridge published on Friday 9 August 2019 which shows that the schools are safe for pupils and staff.

A link to the report can be found here.

The independent review, led by Paul Cackette and Dr Margaret Hannah, was agreed between the Scottish Government, NHS Lanarkshire and the council following a number of claims made relating the site, or the drinking water in the schools, to serious illness.

The review has concluded that these claims are unfounded and that the site, which is also home to Townhead Community Centre, is safe.

Robert Steenson, executive director for enterprise and communities at North Lanarkshire Council, said: "We are pleased that the independent review agrees with the council's position throughout, which is that the schools are safe and that there is no link between the schools and any serious illness. The review also finds that the council and NHS took the concerns of parents and staff seriously.

"We look forward to welcoming pupils back for the start of the term next week to what are outstanding, high-performing schools with enthusiastic and dedicated staff."

The review has made a number of recommendations and the council has confirmed that it will implement those recommendations swiftly.

-          The first recommendation stems from a single soil sample (from 74 taken across the site) in one location on the edge of the site which showed an elevated level of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). The review recommends that, while this sample does not mean there is an unacceptable risk on the site and the consultants engaged by the independent review recommend further investigation, the location should be remediated to provide additional reassurance. The council has already instructed remediation work which will be carried out and verified between Friday August 9 and Sunday August 11.

-          The second recommendation asks the council to work together with Scottish Water to carry out regular testing on the drinking water and publish the results. While the review report states that the main supply pipe has still to be replaced, the council can confirm that this work has already taken place. The council has already written this morning (Friday) to Scottish Water to make the necessary arrangements and will publish the ongoing water test results.

-          Recommendation three is for Scottish Water, while recommendation four asks the council to make public detailed material about the periodic testing of the gas membrane underneath the building. The council will do so in the coming days.

-          Recommendation five asks the council to establish a site recovery group involving the school community. The council will do so and will set out precisely how it intends to do this during week commencing August 12.

Mr Steenson added: "The independent review's report contains a number of recommendations which the council, working with parents, pupils, staff and members of the wider school community, will implement. Indeed, we have already begun to do so.

"The report also contains learning points for the council and we will reflect on these as we work through the detail of the report.

"In particular, the council fully accepts that the issue of blue water on the site - although harmless in terms of health - could have been dealt with at an earlier stage. However, all pipework has now been replaced and water fully complies with drinking quality standards. While swift action was taken to replace all pipework carrying drinking water when senior management became fully aware of the issue late last year, we have already revised our reporting systems to ensure matters of concern are consistently and swiftly dealt with.

"The review also makes clear that the council's detailed and careful actions to assess the site before construction took place and the subsequent work were reasonable, appropriate and proportionate. In the case of the gas membrane, the experts engaged by the independent review make it clear that the level of protection designed was beyond that required.

"While the review states that the quality of the written information provided to parents was of a high quality, questions are raised about the timeliness of the council's response and engagement with staff and trade unions. All communications will be internally reviewed to ascertain what lessons can be learned."

The council's full assessment of all the key points of the review will be considered by the Policy and Strategy Committee in the coming weeks.

All relevant services of the council were engaged with the review team and provided full cooperation throughout. Mr Steenson said: "The review team have done an enormous amount of work. We are pleased that the review clearly states that the council and its officers have acted throughout with the best interests and health and safety of parents, staff and pupils at the heart of their actions.

"The council is extremely grateful for the input of colleagues from multiple agencies. In particular, the support from NHS Lanarkshire has been exemplary and the review is explicit that their actions were correct in respect of the public heath investigation.

Background Information

An information leaflet was previously sent to all parents, carers and teachers. This can be viewed here. 

 pdf icon Information Factsheet for parents and carers is available to download [2Mb]

Documents relating to these risk assessment and remediation plan and the subsequent remediation and validation report, which confirms that the remediation works were carried out to the satisfaction of the planning authority are available below:

These and other documents are also easily accessible on the council's online planning portal.

A number of organisations were consulted and the information supplied as part of the planning process can be found below:

The site that the campus was built on is suitable for use, meets the specific planning conditions and building standards regulations in place and is safe.

Results from water testing at both schools can be seen pdf icon here [43kb].

Two presentations given at a public meeting on Thursday 6 June can be viewed here: pdf icon North Lanarkshire Council presentation [736kb] and pdf icon NHS Public Health presentation [393kb].

Please email lls.cce@northlan.gov.uk or telephone 01236 812606 if you have further questions.

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