EDUCATION chiefs have revealed they want the replacement for Castlebrae High to be a centre of scientific excellence in a bid to reverse the fortunes of a school slated as the worst in Scotland.
Council leaders hope experts at the Capital’s burgeoning Bioquarter life sciences research campus next to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary can be drafted into classrooms at the new Craigmillar school to work alongside teachers.
The move is an early sign of long-term plans to make greater use of “para-professionals” in city classrooms to boost teaching quality – one of a series of revamp measures outlined in the council’s draft Vision for Schools report.
Education leader Paul Godzik said: “We recognise that we would like to do something different here. If you look at the bio-park and where it is, there are obvious linkages.”
The proposed bid to turn replacement premises for Castlebrae High into a science hub came after last month’s 11th-hour decision to save the school from closure. Education bosses previously wanted to shut the school because of poor exam results and a falling roll, but the school could now become an annex to Portobello High.
Council leaders also confirmed they expect to spend £22.39 million on the new building, which is due to open in August 2020.
Early indications are that replacement premises will be built in the centre of Craigmillar as part of wider regeneration efforts in the area.
“Our Vision for Schools report refers to using para-professionals in schools – taking that outside expertise and bringing it into the classroom, having researchers work hand in hand with teachers,” said Councillor Godzik.
“We’ll obviously have to have close consultation with the parent council and the wider community with a view to looking at options for the new school.”
Confirmation that the replacement school is set to become a hub for science teaching was welcomed by campaigners who fought to save Castlebrae High.
Kev Finlay, chair of Saved the Brae, said: “If the council are beginning to build links to the Bioquarter at Little France, that can only be a good thing. It means giving young people somebody they can aspire to.
“We’ve already mooted ideas like that as part of the commission that was set up to look at all options for improving the education of our young folk.
“With the information on how much they’re going to spend and when it will open, I think people can take a lift from the fact that the council are now making the right noises.”
Cllr Godzik said it was far too early to predict whether the school would become a fully-fledged science “academy” attracting the best and brightest from across the Capital.
BRAE BACK FROM THE BRINK
THE future of Castlebrae High has been mired in uncertainty since council chiefs unveiled a proposal to shut the school in September last year.
Although the move sparked outrage, education leaders said poor exam results and a plunging roll meant it would be better to close the school.
Parents and community leaders campaigned desperately to keep Castlebrae open but it seemed the school’s fate was sealed when education officers confirmed in February that they were recommending closure.
But last month council bosses performed a U-turn over the plans and announced Castlebrae would stay open, possibly as a vocational training hub.