Portobello High School ruling: School break-up ‘not an option’

Porty campaigners warn catchment change 'disruptive'. Picture: Kate Chandler

Porty campaigners warn catchment change 'disruptive'. Picture: Kate Chandler

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PARENTS have warned that any change to the Portobello High School catchment area would be unpopular and “hugely divisive” for the community following the “shock” court decision to block plans for a new school on Portobello Park.

The city council is urgently looking at alternative options, including an appeal to the Supreme Court and finding an alternate site for the development, following last week’s ruling by the Court of Session.

One option available to the local authority would be to build the new school on the current site, which was previously ruled out because of its limited size and the necessity for a costly and disruptive decant.

However, the council looked at plans to cap the number of pupils at the new school at 1200 in 2006, suggesting they could still potentially rebuild on the current site, reduce the size and capacity of the new school and alter the catchment area.

However, Sean Watters, chairman of Portobello for a New School (PFANS), is not in favour of the option. He said: “The existing site is less than half the recommended minimum, so you’d have to hugely reduce the pupils to make it suitable, who’d then have to go elsewhere – and a smaller school isn’t much cheaper to build.

“Breaking up a very popular and successful school would be hugely divisive for the community, very disruptive and considerably more expensive.”

And Chair of Portobello High School Parent Council, Paul Smart, is also against reducing the size of the new school and altering the catchment area.

He said: “I think even a roll of 1200 would be too big for that site in terms of what a modern school should now deliver. The smaller the school, the less it can do.”

Meanwhile, the city’s education leader councillor Paul Godzik said “all options” were being considered. The news comes as the Evening News urges readers to make use of a campaign poster printed in today’s paper featuring Etta Watters – Sean’s daughter – who is among those pupils set to start Portobello High School next year. It is hoped that residents will display the poster in their windows.

Last week, it was announced Portobello Park Action Group’s (PPAG) appeal, challenging the council’s legal right to use part of Portobello Park for the new school, had been successful.

Some calls have now been made for a local referendum to confirm that the majority of the community wants the school to be built on the park.

Councillor Godzik added: “All options are currently being considered and a report will be presented to the October meeting of the council.”

laura.cummings@edinburghnews.com

Officials barred from meeting

A PUBLIC meeting has been called in Portobello to give parents a chance to say what should happen in the wake of the court decision to block the area’s new high school.

The community is still reeling from the Court of Session ruling that the long-planned replacement for the current crumbling Portobello High School cannot be built in Portobello Park because it is common good land.

Organisers of the meeting in Portobello Town Hall on Friday say they are not inviting city education leader Paul Godzik or council officials because they believe the answer to the setback will come from the community.

Andy Wightman, a well-known campaigner for land reform and an expert on common good in Scotland, will address the meeting at the Town Hall. It will be open from 6pm and the meeting will start at 6.30pm.