Everyone is aware of the council’s financial position, and it is not a pretty picture. With a growing demand for vital statutory services there are tough decisions facing us as we look to save more than £125 million in other areas over the next four years.
Latest figures predict the number of primary school pupils in the city will rise to 31,300 by 2020 and to 35,400 by 2030. This will begin to have an impact on the secondary sector with the number of pupils rising from a projected low of 18,100 in 2016 to 20,900 by 2020 and increasing 24,900 by 2030. Meeting and resourcing additional demand is a huge challenge, especially with year-on-year reductions in public spending, the substantial community demands for additional capital funding, and the Scottish Government’s council tax freeze entering its eighth year.
Yet educational attainment continues to improve and latest exam results show city pupils continuing to perform above the Scottish average. On positive destinations, we have risen from last in Scotland just a few years ago to being significantly above the Scottish average today. Our work on foreign languages and the success of the 1 plus 2 programme has been widely recognised, and the support we have put in place for children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing was awarded Educational Initiative of the Year earlier this month.
On school buildings, the Capital Coalition ensured the £128m funding package for our Wave 3 schools was completed, and we look forward to seeing three new high schools – James Gillespie’s Boroughmuir and Portobello – open next year. We now have a Wave 4 process under way with a possible seven schools identified.
And on early years, three new nurseries at Fox Covert, Wardie and Duddingston were opened this year. In total, we have plans for 11 new and refurbished nurseries across the city.
Repairing and maintaining our existing buildings has been a huge challenge, but I am clear we need to continue to increase funding and ensure that all our school buildings are rated A or B by the Scottish Government by 2019. There is now a £45m fund to do just that.
We want your views on our proposals – and we will listen. Last year, as a direct result of your feedback on the children and families budget, we reduced the proposed savings in third party grants by £614,000 to continue support for vulnerable children and ensured proposed reductions in the community learning development service budget didn’t result in the closure of any community centre.
Find out more at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/budget, or take part in our budget question time debate with conveners on November 23. Today is the last day to register at www.surveymonkey.com/r/HDTGTVW
Paul Godzik is education, children and families convener at Edinburgh City Council