Parents to get lesson in new Portobello High School options

An artist's impression of the new high school
An artist's impression of the new high school
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PARENTS in Portobello are to be provided with a range of factsheets outlining the possible locations for a new high school.

At the full city council meeting last week members voted in favour of pursuing a Private Act of Parliament to seek permission for the new Portobello High School to be built on Portobello Park.

However, it is considering alternative sites as a back-up plan should a change in legislation not be possible and has compiled 10 detailed factsheets on these options.

Parents with children at Portobello High and its feeder primaries – Brunstane, Duddingston, Royal High, Parson’s Green, Towerbank and St John’s RC – will receive a letter this week which directs them to the council website to view the information, or to their own school where some copies will be available. Parent councils will also be asked to distribute the link to the site and gather feedback from parents on their preference.

The council estimates that its preferred option to build on Portobello Park will take three years, which is based on resolving legal issues within 14 months – something it said was an achievable timescale.

A rebuild on the existing site, which would involve using the current high school site and extending it into the area currently occupied by St John’s RC Primary, would take more than four years, according to the council, as would building on Brunstane Estate or the former Scottish Power site at Baileyfield.

The city’s education leader, Paul Godzik, said: “Portobello Park remains the council’s preferred site for a new Portobello High School and we are continuing to pursue legal options to allow us to deliver this.

“It is important, however, to have a back-up plan and that’s why we are considering alternative sites. It’s clear the alternatives not only represent a significant compromise in what can be provided, but could also take longer to deliver. Some options will also impact on the future options for St John’s and, for this reason, we’ve asked the parent councils for Portobello High School, feeder primaries and St John’s RC Primary to consult directly with their own school communities and feed back their views to help us decide the way forward for both schools.”

The information provided by the council includes a one-page fact sheet for each option, which lists a number of criteria and a tick or a cross next to each depending on whether they meet the criteria. There are also images showing an aerial view of the site, pupil distribution and a catchment diagram, as well as plans showing what the school would look like on the site.

Education chiefs have been planning to replace the crumbling Portobello High School and adjacent St John’s RC Primary School since 2006.

However, Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG) appealed an earlier Court of Session ruling backing the council’s plans to build the school on Portobello Park. Last month, it was announced that PPAG’s appeal – which challenged the council’s legal right to use part of Portobello Park for the new school – had been successful.

Parents will also be provided with factsheets on possible sites for a new St John’s RC Primary. Among the options are the existing site and part of the area currently occupied by Portobello High, Lismore playing fields, the Baileyfield site, Cavalry Park and the Portobello High School site, which is dependent on the high school moving.

To view the factsheets, visit www.edinburgh.gov.uk/newportobelloschool.

POLITICAL BACKING FOR CHANGE TO LAW

MOST Edinburgh and Lothians MSPs would vote for a special law to get the new Portobello High built.

A straw poll by the News found widespread backing among local Holyrood politicians for the Private Act which the city council plans to put before the Scottish Parliament.

Independent Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said: “I have every sympathy with the council on this. I don’t think there is much else they can do.”

Justice Secretary and Edinburgh Eastern SNP MSP Kenny MacAskill, whose constituency includes Portobello, said: “If the outcome is a Private Act and legislative change is best, they will have my full support.”

Lothians Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale said: “I support any measure to get the school built as soon as possible.”

Lothians Tory MSP Gavin Brown also vowed to back the move, while Lothians Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said: “I share the parents’ frustration and I strongly support calls for an end to the uncertainty caused.”

Edinburgh Northern and Leith Labour MSP Malcolm Chisholm, Lothians Labour MSP Neil Findlay, East Lothian Labour MSP Iain Gray and Christine Grahame, below, SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale, also said they would support the act.

Lothians Tory MSP David McLetchie said he would reserve final judgement until it was actually published. Edinburgh Western SNP MSP Colin Keir and Colin Beattie, SNP MSP for Midlothian North and Musselburgh, said they need more information.