Pupils aged 7 scheduled for regular high school classes

Niddrie Mill P7 pupil Mariam Saqib joins art teacher Mrs Philip for a lesson at Castlebrae High. Picture: Lesley Martin

Niddrie Mill P7 pupil Mariam Saqib joins art teacher Mrs Philip for a lesson at Castlebrae High. Picture: Lesley Martin

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CHILDREN as young as seven are being timetabled for regular classes at high school in a teaching drive set to be rolled out across the Capital.

Youngsters from P4 onwards will attend secondary school lessons in subjects ranging from English and maths to music and PE – even if this means landing them with a longer day.

Castlebrae Community High – which was saved from closure last year despite poor exam results and falling rolls – has emerged as a frontrunner in the new initiative.

It is hosting P4-7 children from Castleview, Niddrie Mill and Newcraighall primaries for weekly one-hour periods over teaching blocks of up to seven weeks.

Wester Hailes Education Centre and Tynecastle High also have well-developed programmes, with pupils benefiting from direct access to specialist staff and equipment in a secondary school setting.

Introductory high school “taster” sessions are a long-established feature of leaving primary but formally timetabling of classes over a period of weeks or months is seen as a bold move towards improving the transition between schools.

The approach is poised for a city-wide roll-out and is understood to be “on the agenda” for every headteacher across the Capital, senior education figures have revealed.

Lindsey Watt, headteacher at Castleview Primary, and seconded head for S1-3 at Castlebrae, said intensive “idea sharing” on the classes was taking place in all of the Capital’s school clusters.

She added: “We’re trying to develop a cohesive programme of transition from P4 upwards, with all the local primary schools.

“Children are no longer coming to Castlebrae and feeling that it’s a strange place – it’s just a continuation of the learning they’ve been working on in primary school.”

She said parent feedback on the new classes had been positive and that moves were already underway towards increasing the time spent by primary school pupils in 
Castlebrae’s classrooms.

“We want to encourage and boost parental confidence that there’s high-quality learning and teaching going on here,” she said.

Jacquie Ramsay, depute headteacher at Tynecastle 
High, which runs weekly morning sessions during the summer for local P7s, said early discussions had begun on hosting regular classes throughout the year.

“The pupils’ primary teacher is there with them and follows them round the school – it’s almost like a team-taught lesson,” she said.

City bosses said the new classes would help ensure children “hit the ground running” when they reach high school.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Not only does it help build relationships with teaching staff and pupils from other schools, but also means they are immersed in both the curriculum and high school environment.

“Often it can be quite daunting moving from a small school to a much larger one. Having lesson time at the secondary helps break down any perceived barriers the younger children may have.”

johnpaul.holden@edinburghnews.com