Rise in pupil numbers may force boundaries redraw

Catchment areas in the east of the Capital are set for a shake-up. Picture: PA
Catchment areas in the east of the Capital are set for a shake-up. Picture: PA
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RISING pupil numbers at one of the Capital’s most popular primaries has forced education chiefs to consider redrawing its catchment area, while seven other schools are set to be extended due to lack of space.

The catchment area around Towerbank Primary in Portobello – which has seen a massive increase in pupil numbers over the last decade – would be dramatically changed under proposals revealed by education bosses.

The review – which would see some pupils sent to schools further away from their homes – is likely to cause upset and anger amongst parents, many of whom have moved into the area to be within the Towerbank catchment.

Meanwhile, seven schools across the city – Balgreen, East Craigs, Ferryhill, Fox Covert, Granton, Roseburn and St Mary’s (Leith) – are likely to be extended to accommodate increasing rolls – though education chiefs cannot rule out the possibility of further catchment reviews for Balgreen, Ferryhill, Fox Covert and St Mary’s RC. The Portobello proposals will directly affect children due to start school in August next year.

Education bosses – who will carry out a public consultation – insist that the pupils currently at Towerbank will not have to move, and that their siblings will be “offered priority” if they are moved into a different catchment area.

But the school’s parent council has warned that the review will generate “huge amounts of upset” for parents.

Sean Watters, chair of the parent council, said: “They are taking away bits that are really quite close to the school and planning on moving them up to Duddingston.

“Brighton Place, Rosefield and Lee Crescent are only five minutes from the school so I can’t imagine it going down well with parents who live there.

“Although they are saying siblings will be prioritised, there’s just that uncertainty.

“This is a genuinely difficult one – if you look at the numbers, the school just isn’t big enough.”

The proposals would see pupils who would currently be within the Towerbank catchment go to one of four schools in the adjoining catchments – Duddingston, Craigentinny, Brunstane and Royal High primaries.

Mr Watters said the parent council had been warning education bosses about the pressure on the school for years.

It currently has 609 pupils in 22 classes, but the roll is expected to rise to more than 660 by 2019 and 700 by 2026.

Mr Watters said: “It’s something that we have flagged up to the council that the roll at Towerbank has been increasing for ten years now. It was a two-stream school in 2005-06, but it’s gone from 14 classes then up to 22. That was not anticipated.

“If we look at other schools round about, they have always been static, so this shows that it’s due to people moving into the area.

“The hope was that it would level off because the school is pretty much at capacity.

“But they have crunched the numbers and discovered that the birth rate spike on top of what we already have means that something has to be done.”

On top of the number of pupils already projected, the potential new housing development at Baileyfield would place even more accommodation pressures on Towerbank. Under the catchment review, this area would be moved into the Royal High primary area.

Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, said: “Towerbank Primary School has already been extended, the playground is relatively small, and so rather than further reducing the playground space, the proposal is to undertake a catchment review with neighbouring primary schools.

“However, I want to reassure all parents at Towerbank and neighbouring schools that we will listen to their views and take them on board when it comes to making a final decision.”

POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS

• Balgreen PS: New accommodation likely

• East Craigs PS: Planning permission is being sought for three new classrooms.

• Ferryhill PS: New class-rooms likely, or a revamp of the current school.

• Fox Covert PS: An “internal reconfiguration” or shared space with Fox Covert RC

• Granton PS: Reorganisation of existing space, such as offices, to create classrooms.

• Roseburn PS : Revamp of current space or new classrooms.

• St Mary’s RC (Leith): New classrooms likely.

One divided by five is a difficult sum

The council’s proposed new catchment area for Towerbank would see the existing area split into five, with the majority of Portobello and Joppa continuing to send their children to the school.

However the four other areas would see pupils sent to schools in the surrounding areas – which for most would mean the travel time doubled.

• Area A: The industrial land between Fillyside Road and King’s Road has been earmarked for future housebuilding, but anyone moving there would have to send their children to Craigentinny Primary and Leith Academy.

• Area B: The Baileyfield Estate, including Baileyfield Crescent, Baileyfield Road and Fishwives Causeway, where major housebuilding is planned, will move into the catchment area for the Royal High Primary School. It will remain in the Portobello High catchment area.

• Area C: Rosefield Place, East Brighton Crescent, West Brighton Crescent, Sandford Gardens and Lee Crescent, as well as part of Rosefield Avenue, would transfer to the Duddingston Primary catchment area. It too would remain in the catchment area for Portobello High.

• Area D: An area bounded by Sir Harry Lauder Road down to Milton Road East, and including South Morton Street and parts of Brunstane Road, and would transfer to the Brunstane Primary School catchment area, but remain with Portobello High.

Parents affected are likely to be concerned that while Towerbank has been rated ‘good’ or ‘very good’, Duddingston and Craigentinny Primary Schools have been rated ‘satisfactory’ for some factors.