Threat of axe hanging over a fifth of schools

Castlebrae High School

Castlebrae High School

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ALMOST a fifth of primary schools in the Capital are less than 60 per cent occupied, putting them at risk of closure in the future.

Sixteen of the city’s 86 primaries fall within this category, which the council uses as a guide when considering which schools should face the axe.

Colinton Primary School

Colinton Primary School

There are currently a total of 5298 spare places across Edinburgh’s schools, which is the equivalent of 13 schools with two classes per year group.

Over the past few years, education bosses have closed seven primary schools, all of which had occupancy rates of below 60 per cent. The city’s education leader Marilyne MacLaren said closures would need to be “put back on the agenda” in the future to address the problem of some schools sitting half empty.

The primary with the lowest occupancy rate is Colinton, which is just 40 per cent full.

Around 90 per cent of the school roll is made up of pupils from army families, which has led to fears over the future of the school when the Redford and Dreghorn barracks close.

Brunstane and Craigroyston have the second lowest occupancy rate, with both less than half full. Three secondaries – Castlebrae, Wester Hailes Education Centre and Craigroyston – are also less than 60 per cent full.

The figures come as council chiefs continue to urge parents to send children to their local schools to address the issue of some schools sitting half empty while others are over capacity.

The number of children refused places at their first-choice primary tripled in the last 12 months. A total of 345 children missed out on places at out-of-catchment schools.

The latest figures show several of the city’s most popular schools are either full or over capacity. Both Sciennes and St David’s are over-occupied by two per cent, while St Catherine’s is four per cent over capacity. The situation is worse in some high schools, with Boroughmuir and James Gillespie’s both eight per cent over-occupied.

At the start of last year, city chiefs pledged that no more schools would be closed before 2012 but no guarantees have been given beyond this.

Councillor MacLaren said: “Whoever forms the new administration, with the financial difficulties as they are would have to ask if this is the wisest use of our money.”

Councillor Alison Johnstone, education spokeswoman for the Greens, warned: “Some schools do have spare capacity but we can’t simply close these as neighbouring schools may be unable to cope with the additional pupils.”

The school capacity figures were released after Labour’s education spokesman Paul Godzik submitted the question to Cllr MacLaren about overcrowding in some schools.