COUNCILLORS in Edinburgh have been forced to close 17 schools built under Private Finance Initiatives (PFIs) because they could not guarantee the safety of pupils in the buildings.

City of Edinburgh Council sneaked out news of the closure just after 7pm last night, advising parents to make alternative childcare arrangements. The National understands staff were made aware of the closures during the afternoon.

Thousands of students were due back at school on Monday, but parents have been told to “consider childcare arrangements for the week”.

The schools are closed indefinitely, including five secondaries just weeks before students sit their exams.

The knock-on effect of the closures will be substantial and have left furious parents scrambling about trying to find last-minute childcare.

Parents were told they will be given regular updates.

The decision came after remedial work at Oxgangs Primary School uncovered new issues relating to the school’s construction.

When Edinburgh Schools Partnership (ESP), the group who look after the PFI buildings for the council, were asked to guarantee that all the public private partnership schools were safe to open on Monday, they were unable to do so to the council’s satisfaction.

Council Leader Andrew Burns said: “Edinburgh Schools Partnership have today been unable to give the Council sufficient guarantee that the schools and other premises are safe to open on Monday.

“Clearly we have every right to expect these schools to have been built to a good standard and in accordance with industry practice. We now know this isn’t the case. ESP have let the council down but more importantly they have the let children, parents and staff of this city down.

“We have today alerted the Scottish Government to our concerns.

“The safety of children and our staff is our top priority and we’re simply not willing to take any risks. As such we have no option but to close these schools and Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre. We fully recognise the significant inconvenience to parents caused by these closures.

“However, I am sure everyone will understand why we have taken these steps. We will keep parents and carers updated over the coming week as more information becomes available.”

Andy Wightman, Scottish Green MSP candidate for Lothian, called for an inquiry.

“This is absolutely staggering,” he said. “As of Monday thousands of children and young people are going to be thrown into confusion and their families into deep anxiety because the private consortium which built and runs those PPP schools cannot guarantee pupil safety.

“It’s well known that Edinburgh has a school repair problem, but it was believed to be in those schools which were decades old. It is an utter disgrace to discover that new schools are beset by the same problems, as a result of shoddy workmanship.

“A full-scale inquiry is needed into this fiasco, first and foremost for the schools immediately affected, but also, more generally for this whole set of arrangements for building and maintaining public buildings.”

Schools affected: Pirniehall and St David’s Primary Schools, Craigroyston Primary School, Broomhouse and St Joseph’s Primary Schools, Rowanfield School, Craigour Park Primary School, Castleview Primary School, Gracemount High School, Forthview Primary School, Drummond Community High School, Craigmount High School, Goodtrees Neighbourhood Centre, The Royal High School, Howdenhall Children’s Unit, Oxgangs Primary School, Firrhill High School, St Peter’s Primary, Braidburn.