(Photo courtesy of Leighton family)

The Ministry of Education spent nearly $10 million to improve school safety after Ottawa high school student Eric Leighton died following a shop class explosion, a coroner's inquest heard Friday.

Ministry official Aldo Cianfrini testified that the funds were earmarked to upgrade equipment and train teachers in hands-on classes, such as shop and science.

Leighton had been assigned to make a barbecue in his transportation technology class. The 18-year-old Mother Teresa High School student was cutting into an old oil drum with a grinder when it exploded. 

Cianfrini testified he didn't believe the barbecue project met the expectations for the class.

The explosion launched a blitz of inspections in shop and science classes that found more than 6,500 infractions.  Cianfrini said the ministry's plan is to get that number down to zero.

Maureen Callan, also of the Ministry of Education, told the inquest Friday that shop class projects must now be tied more closely to the course, meaning a barbecue project like the one that ended with Leighton's death might not have been approved.

Teachers can now go online to see if their projects fit the province's expectations for the course, and also look at other projects in the curriculum being used at other schools, she said.

Leighton's shop teacher testified earlier this week that he pitched the barbecue project to his advanced students because it used "transferable skills" that involved creating a design and using equipment used in shop class.

Scott Day admitted he had never built a barbecue before assigning the project but said similar projects had been completed at other schools.

After a week of testimony, the inquest has been adjourned until April 1 for closing arguments. A jury will then be asked to review the evidence and make recommendations on how to prevent similar incidents.