The council’s education committee meets next week at a special session to allow ongoing discussion about the future of schools in the west and south west to continue.
Since the council announced last November that they would have to examine schools in the west and south west of the city to address building issues and also the changing school rolls in the area, the Education Convener Ian Perry and Vice-Convener Alison Dickie have attended almost 30 meetings with parents. And they say they are still listening, and will take into account all comments made until the schools review ends on 29 March.
Some parents have already indicated that they will make deputations to the special meeting next week which is now expected to last all day.
Council officers have now drafted various possible outcomes, and these are available in detail on the council website.
After next week’s meeting the council will then take a decision in May as to future plans for all schools across Edinburgh which will be submitted to The Scottish Government. These will include submissions for schools in other areas of Edinburgh such as Trinity, Craigmillar and Liberton. It is likely that the government will announce funding for schools after the summer.
Even if the whole process is completed by the end of this year it is likely that it will take about four years for any new school will only be built.
We spoke to Education Convener Ian Perry about the need for such changes. He said : “I think everybody knows that Edinburgh is a growing city. With a growing city there are more people and more families. In West Edinburgh there has been a lot of growth and that has meant we need to build a new secondary school in the west of Edinburgh.
“We have to look at all catchment areas so it was felt better to look at the whole of the west of the city to get the right number of schools in the right places for the future.”
At first the council proposed splitting Currie into two parts and having listened to major concerns in the community this is no longer included in any of the possible scenarios on the table.
Another point constantly raised at the informal discussion has was the size of secondary schools. The Council believes that size is not as important as the quality of learning and teaching, the quality of leadership in the school and the level of parental engagement.
When possible changes to schools and catchment areas were made public there was an immediate reaction from parents. There are now campaign groups set up to stand up for what various sets of parents believe to be the right outcome. It is difficult to see how the council can satisfy all concerns, but the Education Convener told The Edinburgh Reporter that his main focus is on delivering the best possible education for young people in Edinburgh.
He continued : “I think this will be one of the most difficult decisions I have ever taken, and I think most of the politicians feel the same.”
The council already published their proposal for discussion which suggests:
- New south west Edinburgh High School for 1200 pupils – perhaps at Curriemuirend Park, North Baberton or Murrayburn Depot
- Balerno High School to expand from 850 to 1200 pupils
- New West Edinburgh High School for 1400 pupils
- New Maybury Primary School
- And various changes to catchment areas.
THREE FURTHER PROPOSALS FOR CONSIDERATION
As a result of the consultation process thus far the council has drafted three further options for consideration. These are shown on the maps and notes on the options are set out under each map. There are also possible changes to catchment areas indicated on the maps :
- Balerno High School to expand to 1,000 pupils
- Currie High School to expand to 1,000 pupils
- New Maybury Primary School
- New West Edinburgh High School for 1200 pupils
- New South West Edinburgh School for 900 pupils
- Balerno High School to expand to 900 pupils
- Currie High School would reduce to 800 pupils
- Second new high school remains a possibility for 600 + pupils
- Wester Hailes Education Centre would become a community hub
- Currie High School would be rebuilt or expanded to 1600 pupils
- Balerno High School would be expanded to 1,000 pupils
- New West Edinburgh School for 1200 pupils
Green councillors have welcomed a council report looking at the future of schools in the west and south west of Edinburgh, but said a lot still needs to happen before it becomes a workable plan.
Green Education spokesperson Cllr Mary Campbell said : “The consultation on schools in the west and south west of the city has raised many questions about the future of education and community facilities in the area. I’m pleased to see that officers have widened out the range of possibilities being looked at. Alternative option 1, in particular, recognises the real passion which communities have for their local schools, which came out loud and clear in the consultation events I attended. This option would see Balerno, Currie and Wester Hailes all retaining distinctive local schools while still allowing for refurbishment and new building to cope with rising populations.
“There is a lot of work still to do and, of course, what is happening in the west and south west of the city is only part of a bigger picture which includes the need to invest in new schools in Trinity, Craigmillar and Liberton. There are important lessons about how to do that which the council needs to take on board as it moves forward.”
The council has just completed the new Boroughmuir High School which opened in January this year, and in 2016 it opened the new Portobello High School.
It is projected that in the next eight years there might be another 1300 primary and secondary pupils in west Edinburgh as a result of planning permission granted for housing there. The council’s survey of Currie High School, Wester Hailes Education Centre and Balerno High School has indicated they all need major refurbishment.