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Scottish ministers announce water safety tests after teachers went on strike

TEACHERS who went on strike at schools with taps spouting “blue water” have claimed victory after ministers announced that fresh safety testing will take place.

The Scottish government’s announcement came after a review recommended testing of the water supply, soil and the protective membrane below the affected schools.

The alarm had been raised at St Ambrose and Buchanan high schools, which share a campus in Coatbridge, following the revelation that four current and former teachers had developed bladder cancer. Parents also claim there has been a high volume of pupil illness.

The school was built on a brownfield site where industrial waste, including arsenic, was previously buried. Ministers and North Lanarkshire Council insist that the site is safe.

The Scottish government said that Scottish Water will test the plumbing supply and that “wider environmental testing” will be carried out on a basis determined by the review team and relevant agencies.

Test results will be published before students return from the summer break on August 12.

Teachers’ union NASUWT took strike action before the end of term last month to call for full site testing to take place as soon as possible.

The union’s general secretary Chris Keates said yesterday: “This announcement by the Scottish government is the result of the courageous and determined stance taken by our members to take strike action.

“The NASUWT has consistently called for a full site survey as the only way to get a true and comprehensive picture of the site and to identify whether there are any potential hazards which could affect the health and safety of staff and pupils.”

She said staff, parents and kids had been “experiencing deep stress and uncertainty about their welfare,” and the union would consider the findings of the tests “in consultation with members.”

Union officials have said there is evidence of the ground subsiding on the site of the schools and suggested that this could have damaged the protective membrane. But the council says the blue water was the result of water lying in copper pipes before the schools opened.

The review team met with council and NHS officials as well as parents, pupils, staff and unions before taking the decision.

The Scottish government said parents concerned about the health of their children should continue to consult local health services.

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