Parents shun private schools for Boroughmuir

Boroughmuir headteacher David Dempster with S6 pupils (left to right) Katie MacLean, Sean Warrington, Crawford Smith, Matthew Galloway, Lewis Galloway and Rachael De Luca. Picture: Jane Barlow
Boroughmuir headteacher David Dempster with S6 pupils (left to right) Katie MacLean, Sean Warrington, Crawford Smith, Matthew Galloway, Lewis Galloway and Rachael De Luca. Picture: Jane Barlow
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ONE of the Capital’s most successful state secondaries is facing an oversubscription squeeze as parents shun private schools and enrol children in soaring numbers.

Teachers at Boroughmuir High have received 221 S1 catchment registrations – above an intake limit of 200 and the highest for a decade.

It has emerged the traditional “drop off” between P7 and S1 in Boroughmuir’s catchment area – driven principally by mums and dads opting to send pupils to independent schools – has disappeared, resulting in a jump in projected first-year rolls.

The increase is evidence of the school’s surging popularity after it was ranked sixth among Scottish state secondaries in last year’s Sunday Times list of Britain’s top schools.

Boroughmuir’s 2014 exam results show 62 per cent of S4 pupils scored at least three Higher passes by the end of S5 – the best performance of any council-run campus in Edinburgh.

But the prospect of S1 overcrowding at the school – which will move to a new building next year – has sparked concern about the impact on teaching.

Lindsay Law, parent representative on the city’s education committee, said: “If a school is oversubscribed then it does run the risk that classes will be bigger than they otherwise would be.

“That puts pressure on teachers and could lead to pupils having a lower quality learning experience.”

Tina Woolnough, Edinburgh representative for the National Parent Forum, said the squeeze on Boroughmuir was evidence of weak forward planning.

“The issue is that the council has relied for many years on parents choosing to send children to private schools,” she said.

“[Reducing drop-off in enrolment between P5-7 and S1] is not a new phenomenon and I would think it could have been anticipated.”

Opposition figures said that with primary schools battling the effect of rising rolls, accommodation pressure on Boroughmuir and other secondaries was set to continue.

Councillor Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the city’s Greens, said: “The real worry is the move to the new school next year as it already looks like the new building will be full from day one.

“Just as primary school rolls started to climb three or four years ago, we can anticipate secondary schools facing new pressures, just on the horizon. That is why it is essential to plan for that increase now and develop a school estate which can ebb and flow as population changes.”

City bosses stressed every catchment pupil would be accommodated. And they said local placing requests to other high schools would be prioritised in a bid to alleviate enrolment pressure at Boroughmuir.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “We have already increased the capacity of the school, and will be working closely with them on this issue. We will also continue to tackle rising rolls across the city and have increased the budget substantially over recent years.”

Eton head says independent fees now too expensive

The headmaster of Eton College has said that the top independent schools have become too expensive for “squeezed” middle-class families.

Tony Little said fees at some of the UK’s biggest boarding schools, which often exceed £30,000 a year, had put them out of reach of middle-class parents, while bursaries were not making enough of a difference.

It came as figures from the Independent Schools Council (ISC) showed fees at independent schools had again increased above the rate of inflation, with average charges rising 3.6 per cent this year.

Boarding fees at Eton exceed £34,000 while those at the top non-boarding private schools regularly top £20,000.

Mr Little, who is set to step down from his post this summer, said: “We look at everybody individually and see . . . whether they measure up to have financial assistance. But we are all very aware of this effect on the middle classes.”

He also said private schools had a “moral imperative” to admit children from disadvantaged backgrounds.