The EIS has welcomed the publication today of the Independent Inquiry Review on health and safety concerns in two North Lanarkshire schools – Buchanan and St Ambrose High Schools.

The EIS notes that the Inquiry has concluded that there is no evidence of a link between the school environment and a number of health problems amongst pupils and staff.

The EIS also welcomes a number of the report's recommendations designed to restore trust and offer ongoing reassurance, not least being the formation of a site recovery group, which the EIS would seek to participate in.

The EIS had previously written to the Scottish Government and the Health and Safety Executive, urging them to take urgent action in light of an increase in concerns from pupils, staff and parents.

The EIS also made a submission to the Inquiry, seeking confirmation on whether North Lanarkshire Council had complied with the requirements and prohibitions imposed upon it under the relevant statutory provisions.

"Employers should be fully transparent"

EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan said, "The EIS believes that when employees raise health and safety concerns employers should react quickly and effectively by conducting the appropriate tests to reassure them.

"In addition, employers should be fully transparent in sharing information and reports with health and safety representatives from trade unions. Unfortunately, as is referenced in the report, this clearly did not occur, with North Lanarkshire Council's actions in key areas being described as 'too slow and too defensive'."

Mr Flanagan continued, "The EIS in North Lanarkshire had to resort to making Freedom of Information requests to gain access to health and safety information and reports which should have been readily provided.

"This only served to generate suspicion and mistrust while increasing anxiety and stress among employees of the Council and members of the school community. In the context of the report, it is noticeable that records of monitoring of the protective membrane below the school buildings could not be readily accessed, raising the question of whether it has been happening."

EIS Submission to the Inquiry

In its submission to the Inquiry, the EIS called for a range of actions which the Institute hopes will now be taken forward, including:

  • Ongoing tests/inspections to be carried out of ground/soil/gas conditions to ensure that the risk assessment remains intact and valid.
  • Health screening to be made available to pupils or teachers who wish it, to provide ongoing reassurance to the school community.

"Essential the Council works to rebuild trust"

Mr Flanagan said, "Whilst we accept the majority of the Inquiry's conclusions, it is clear that the concerns at these schools should have been treated very differently by North Lanarkshire Council. Its mishandling of the situation on several occasions has increased stress and anxiety levels amongst teachers, parents and pupils.

"It is essential that the Council now works positively to rebuild trust with all members of the school communities. The recommended site recovery group, which we welcome, offers a vehicle for doing that by ensuring active ongoing monitoring of the site."

"The EIS will discuss the report in detail with our members at both schools and continue to take forward individual cases where required."

Read a copy of the EIS submission to the Independent Inquiry here.