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Teachers could resume strike after summer holidays if water contamination test not carried out

TEACHERS at two schools where “blue water” came out of taps could resume their strike after the summer holidays if new contamination tests are not carried out.

Teachers at St Ambrose high school kicked off their strike today, joining colleagues from Buchanan high who have been on strike since last week.

Concerns have been raised at the schools, which share a joint site in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, after four current and former teachers developed bladder cancer.

Parents also claim there has been a high incidence of pupil illness. They have joined teachers in calling for fresh tests into potential land and water contamination at the campus, where industrial waste including arsenic was stored before the schools were built.

But North Lanarkshire council insists that the schools are completely safe.

Scottish schools break up for the summer on Thursday, and teachers’ union NASUWT said tests could be done over the holidays.

Asked if the strike would continue in the autumn term if tests were not carried out, NASUWT Scotland official Jane Peckham said: “We have a mandate for six months. We haven’t made the decision on that, we’d have to review that position, but potentially.

“All [the teachers] are asking is for the employer to relieve that stress and anxiety and the impact [of it], and just do some testing to support their claim.”

A protective shield was installed between the contaminated land and the school site, and unions accept that thorough testing took place when the schools were built.

But at a demo outside Motherwell civic centre yesterday, Ms Peckham said there was evidence of the ground having shifted since the buildings were erected.

“Visibly at the back you can see there’s a good foot and a half drop,” she told the Star. “If the ground is moving, then the protective layers could have been breached. The chemicals are still there.”

She said a “number of members” of NASUWT were among workers who had contracted “not just cancer but [other] conditions that are unexplained,” saying: “What they’re concerned about is that there could be a link.

“What would solve this and what would restore confidence would be if the council could just do the tests.”

North Lanarkshire education chief Gerard McLaughlin said: “Specialist doctors from the public health department of NHS Lanarkshire have confirmed that no incidence of cancer is linked to the schools.”

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