Anger as school forced to take extra 25 kids

Davidson's Mains Primary School. Picture: Julie Bull
Davidson's Mains Primary School. Picture: Julie Bull
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CONFIDENCE in the Capital’s school admissions system has plunged to a new low after a cramped primary was forced to accommodate 25 extra P1s at the last minute.

Staff at Davidson’s Mains Primary had to find more teaching space only a few weeks before the start of term after being swamped by youngsters let in on appeal and a late surge in applications from 
families in the catchment area.

The crush has sparked anger among parents, who threatened to complain to the 
Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

And local councillors said they had been inundated with calls from residents worried about the longer-term impact on the school.

One parent, who did not want to be named, said: “I think the whole thing has been a mess. I have not had any good reasons why children were let in.”

The squeeze was caused when six youngsters won places on appeal, followed by a wave of ten new applications from families inside the catchment. The increase meant city education bosses resigned themselves to forking out for an extra teacher and then admitting nine other children already on the school’s waiting list.

They said their hands were tied, as rules for admitting new P1 pupils to schools, including those whose parents appeal, are set down in law.

An 85-strong P1 intake has also deprived Davidson’s Mains of a general purpose space, which will instead be used to teach P3 classes.

The unnamed parent said: “The council do not seem to have been prepared for the extra numbers applying this year. They need to get the appeal process in order.

“This is certainly not either fair nor transparent and I will be taking this to the 
Ombudsman.”

Ward councillor Lindsay Paterson, Conservative member for Almond, said she had received numerous calls from parents.

She said: “When a number of people contact you about the same issue, it’s concerning.

“Clearly, we need to have a better system for looking at numbers in the longer term and we need to ensure the appeals process is as 
transparent and fair as can be.

“Davidson’s Mains is a very popular primary and we really need to get a better handle on demand and capacity.”

Education chiefs stressed that appeal panels are totally independent and that decisions are binding with no right of appeal for the council.

A spokesman said: “These are issues that are outside the control of the council but we are acutely aware of the strength of feeling among 
parents regarding the appeals process.”

However, a Scottish Government spokesman insisted that delivering education, including management of placing requests and appeals, rested with the council. He said: “The Scottish Government supports parental choice and in particular, parents’ rights to make a placing request.”

HOW THE PROCESS WORKS

APPEAL panels take into account a number of criteria when considering a school placing request:

• Whether admission would mean a school has to spend money on creating more space;

• Whether the council would be forced to hire another teacher;

• Whether the council would have to create an extra class;

• Whether admission would harm the educational well-being of existing pupils.