Pupils to switch between schools to beat squeeze

Critics say pupils can resent being taken from their safety zone and moved to other schools. Picture:  Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Critics say pupils can resent being taken from their safety zone and moved to other schools. Picture: Dave Thompson/PA Wire
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MORE pupils will be “trafficked” between schools for different subjects under plans to deal with an emerging space squeeze at secondaries.

Groups of high schools will increasingly be brought together as consortia, with campuses designated as “hubs” for certain subjects and youngsters travelling from one to the other throughout the day.

Moves towards further use of “cluster-based learning” come as secondary teachers prepare for soaring enrolments at primary schools – set to rise 15 per cent to 31,000 by 2019.

It is thought pooling classroom space may help unlock additional capacity within the schools estate and reduce the need for new buildings.

Education chiefs haven’t said which subjects would be affected, but union leaders – who have criticised the move – believe the plans include history, science and modern languages classes.

Alan McKenzie, of the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association, said: “This is a cheap option – and the cheap options rarely work.

“It’s a question of movement – we seem to have gone the way of pupils moving day to day within the city. And that degree of movement, while it might be cost-effective in terms of accounts, is surely not cost-effective in terms of their learning. How many hours in the year will be spent moving from hub to satellite school? The other issues are around going from one school where you are comfortable to another where you are not. Kids can resent being taken away from their own school and safety zone, and put in schools which are not familiar.”

Opposition leaders said cluster teaching was far from satisfactory and warned future high school accommodation problems would lead to another funding crisis.

Further cash from the Scottish Government may be necessary to ensure overcrowding in primary and secondary schools is addressed, they added.

Councillor Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the city’s Greens, said: “As ever, Greens continue to call for a long-term approach to ensure a school estate fit for purpose and to avoid the unsatisfactory situation where considerable numbers of high school pupils may find themselves travelling from school to school for different subjects.”

Figures show the estimated bill for creating space at Edinburgh’s under-pressure primary schools has jumped from £18.5 million in February to nearly £20m as rolls continue to soar. With £14.9m budgeted to deal with the issue, revised accounts mean the city must find just over £5m to plug the gap.

The overall deficit soars to £20m once the cost of a proposed new primary school aimed at alleviating acute accommodation pressures in south Edinburgh is included. 
Education chiefs said high school consortium teaching was among measures being examined.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Options being considered within current school buildings include improved timetabling and increased cluster-based learning opportunities. However, building new accommodation may be the best or only option for some schools.”