EMERGENCY expansion work at some of Edinburgh’s most overcrowded primary schools is set to drag on for years – raising fears over prolonged disruption to childrens’ education.
As it emerged city leaders were looking to phase the work at one Edinburgh primary over half a decade, anxious mums and dads said they were worried about schools shunting pupils to temporary venues such as church halls for months at a time while extra space is created.
The concern came as education chiefs revealed the latest plans for boosting accommodation at under-pressure primaries as pupil numbers soar across Edinburgh.
The newly updated proposals for providing dozens of new teaching spaces at ten primary schools is part of phase two of their £15 million Rising Rolls investment programme.
Among schools where the most extensive and potentially disruptive work will be carried out are St David’s RC and Craigour Park primaries – each set for phased construction of eight classrooms over the next two years or more. And expansion work to build five new classrooms at Stockbridge Primary – accommodating up to 46 P1s in a single classroom through team teaching – could continue until 2018.
The council pledged to minimise disruption while work is carried out and insisted consultation meetings with parent groups had been positive.
But parent leaders and critics today warned of hard choices ahead.
Rob Coward, co-chair of Stockbridge Primary parent council, said: “The feeling among parents is mixed. We are trying to be positive and we’re not despondent, but we are aware there are difficult decisions to be made.”
Wardie, Granton and Trinity primaries have already been expanded and it is understood a further seven schools have been lined up for revamps.
City bosses admitted the proposals were ambitious and said every effort would be made to minimise their impact.
But parents said they were not convinced serious upheaval could be avoided, adding that there were particular concerns over forced decants during development work.
Mr Coward, also a parent representative on the city’s rising rolls working group, said: “In subsequent years, where more major structural work is needed, we are faced with some difficult choices.
“Some of the options available could take up to six months to complete and might require pupils and staff to move to a different site while that work is ongoing. Life at the school will get a bit more compressed in some respects, particularly thinking about playground and dining areas, and areas for PE.”
And parent leaders at Broughton Primary, where playground space is under threat from plans for a new, double-storey classroom building, said there was deep anger at the way in which education bosses had handled the issue.
Nicola Clark-Tonberg, chair of Broughton Primary parent council, said: “Parents are furious. They’ve been working very hard on all the different options for the school. But all along it seems like the council had its preferred option, which is the double-storey building. Lots of parents are very angry and feel there’s not been enough consultation, with plans coming at the last minute when it felt like a fait accompli.”
Lindsay Law, pictured, parent representative on the city’s education committee, said there would be concern at the prospect of expansion work at some schools dragging on for years.
She said: “This is the reality of dealing with rising rolls. And we want to work with the council as productively as possible to deliver the best for our children, and also the children of the future who will attend the school in years to come.”
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “We are seeking to invest some £15m in the school estate, to ensure that we have capacity to deal with rising rolls. We will of course ensure that any building work causes the least possible disruption to the schools, and discuss all options with parent representatives and staff.”
Opposition leaders branded the plans another example of the council administration’s “eleventh-hour approach” to schools management.
Councillor Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the Greens, said: “It is interesting councillors heard this week there is no single council policy covering school buildings.
“Edinburgh deserves a long-term school estate policy – drawing together the many aspirations of the whole school community.”
Additional accommodation not required in August 2013 due to a fall in P1 catchment registrations from 71 to 55.
A feasibility study will be carried out into how the existing temporary unit at the school could be adapted to provide three classroom spaces, subject to its vacation by current occupiers Tynecastle FC.
New double-storey, stand-alone accommodation on the school site to provide four classroom spaces which will all be required by 2017-18.
This may also be built on the school’s extensive car parking area to reduce the threat to playground space.
Flora Stevenson Primary
One large general purpose space to be subdivided to provide a 19th classroom.
Feasibility study to be carried out into new-build accommodation to create three additional classroom spaces.
Fox Covert Primary
Two large classrooms to be subdivided to form three new teaching spaces. School staff have indicated which classrooms they wish to see sub-divided.
Craigour Park Primary
Eight classroom spaces to be built in two or three phases, either through extending the school building or providing new-build accommodation.
Phase one (three or five classroom spaces) to be delivered by August next year. The timescale for later phase work has still to be determined.
Stockbridge Primary School
Five additional classroom spaces to be built on the school site over three phases, with the first two delivered by August next year.
A third would be built in time for the start of the 2016-17 school session, with a further two completed by August 2018.
St David’s RC Primary
Eight class spaces to be built in two phases, with the first three to be delivered by next August. The timescale for delivery of the remaining five has yet to be determined.
Phase one may be provided through new-build accommodation with later phase classrooms delivered by extending the existing building.
Liberton Primary School
Additional accommodation not expected to be needed next August but planning work underway to deliver stand-alone accommodation providing five class spaces for future years.
The work would be carried out in one or two phases, meaning the building could be single or double-storey.
St Mary’s RC (Leith) Primary
P1 intakes to be monitored with full catchment review to be considered by August 2016.
Designs to be progressed for building three new teaching spaces at the school in August 2014. The new-build accommodation will be stand-alone.