The issue of rising primary school rolls is one of the most pressing ones facing the council. We expect them to go up by 19 per cent by 2020 which would mean more than 31,000 children needing to be accommodated at our schools.
There is a finite limit on space and finances so the council has a responsibility to plan ahead and come up with potential solutions.
These complex problems were highlighted last week with Stockbridge Primary School (pictured below), where one solution put forward involved 46 pupils being taught by two teachers. As well as this, a number of other potential solutions have been looked at and discussed with the headteacher and the parent council. What is clear is that there is no perfect solution to what is an extremely difficult problem, but as a council we are determined to listen to parental views and work with the school community as we move forward.
One solution is to increase classroom space to cope with the added pressure. At the start of the next session in August there will be extra space at 11 different primary schools.
Team teaching – where classes over 25 pupils have an extra teacher – has been widely used in Edinburgh schools for many years to help us reach the class size targets. Although a class may well be larger, the ratio of teachers to pupils is lower, which means pupils benefit from the skills of more than one teacher.
In the longer term, finding a sustainable solution to the problem of rising rolls is really important. We have to ensure that there is space available, and the quality of the school environment is preserved. That is why we have set up a cross-party working group to look at the matter. It’s also why we’ve boosted the funding for tackling these issues to £15 million.
Rising primary school rolls and classroom pressures will be with us for many years. It is imperative the council, with schools and parents, consider all the solutions to ensure every child gets the best start in life.
Cllr Paul Godzik is education leader