Comment: Schools can never be an equilibrium

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PARENTS in Edinburgh have been warned that out-of-catchment school placing requests are increasingly likely to be refused as the city’s population increases. Today, we publish the hard evidence of how that is playing out.

In 2013, a total of 1084 P1 placing requests were processed by Edinburgh City Council, an increase of 15 per cent on the previous 12 months.

But just 543 of those were approved – almost exactly 50 per cent – leaving hundreds of families disappointed.

As education leader Paul Godzik has said in this newspaper previously: the reality is that rising rolls mean parents can no longer pick and choose a school and the number of placing request spaces available will continue to fall.

Our table on page 9 today shows the schools which are feeling the squeeze the most.

Some have low levels of out-of catchment requests while others are dealing with more than 30.

In the immediate term there is little the city council can say to parents considering a placement request other than use your local primary.

But this is a difficult sell to parents. Mums and dads are applying to these popular schools for a reason: they achieve excellent results, have good inspection reports and enjoy a positive reputation.

Schools can never be on an equilibrium. There will always be individual teachers and headteachers who will strive to make their school the best. And it would wrong for the local authority to quash that ambition.

But what it can do is intensify the support it gives to less popular schools to ensure they are also viewed positively by everyone in the community.

Not all parents have the option of putting their child in an independent school if they are unhappy. We must ensure that parents who do choose the local school have an assurance that it will give their child the best possible start in life.