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.
The report can be found on https://www.gov.scot/publications/buchanan-st-ambrose-independent-review/
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.
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