PLANS to close Castlebrae High will “rip the heart out of the local community”, parents, pupils and community leaders warned at a demonstration.
At least 100 campaigners against a proposal by the city council to close Castlebrae and transfer its 200 pupils to Liberton, Portobello and Holy Rood High gathered outside the school’s gates in Craigmillar.
Parents and pupils holding banners and chanting slogans were joined on the protest by users of the school’s adult learning, family and community sports facilities.
The protest comes after the Evening News revealed last month that the council would propose consulting on the closure of the school because of falling rolls and poor exam results. Education bosses said the roll at Castlebrae, at just a third of its 600-pupil capacity, is the lowest in Edinburgh, meaning the cost per pupil for 2012/13 is expected to be more than twice the city average – £10,418 per pupil compared with £4757 for other schools.
But campaigners yesterday accused the council of neglecting the school, dismissing its achievements and ignoring its use by local families and adult learners, as well as helping pupils from other schools with subjects such as hairdressing and retail. Leaders of Save The Brae campaign told the News they believed falling rolls and poor exam results at Castlebrae were the result of neglect and that a decision to close the school would cause immense harm. Kevin Finlay, campaign chair, said: “The council are wholly responsible for how the school is – what they’ve put into maintenance and investment over the years has been very low.
“It’s them that should be giving our kids an education but they are just not bothered about it. If they close this school, it will rip the heart out of the community.”
Speaking to the News during yesterday’s demo, parent and local resident Helen McIntyre, 32, whose daughters Kelly, 12, and Susan, 14, attend Castlebrae, said: “It’s ridiculous they want to close the school – it can’t be that failing if there are other schools that use our hairdressing salon, and you have adult learners and people who come in to use the crèche.”
Donna Mason, 43, mother of Castlebrae pupil Alan, 13, said: “They just want to demolish the school so they can put in houses. The kids round here go to the school because it’s within walking distance. If they’re forced to move to another school, they just won’t go and they’ll start skiving.
“When he was at the school, my Darrell, who’s now 21, was not that hot at maths but they really took time out to help him get his grades. He’s a heavy-duty mechanic now and it’s all thanks to that school.”
Education bosses today said any decision to press ahead with consultation on closure would not be taken lightly and that parents and community members would be fully involved. Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Once the consultation process, which will involve a number of public meetings including with the Castlebrae community, has been completed the final decision on the future of the school will rest with the full council.”