‘They must be the exception to the rule’

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The city council really is stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to our overcrowded primaries.

The soaring rolls coupled with school closures in the past mean this is an immediate problem which must be dealt with now.

It has called for some innovative thinking and, as we reveal today, the solution will not be to everyone’s 
liking.

The “prefab” buildings proposed for four schools immediately conjure up memories of portable huts used to ease overcrowding in the past.

In truth, these plans are for far more sophisticated – and more permanent – extensions.

The extensions will be quick and easy, and could even be available for use, subject to permissions, by the start of the new school year in August, ensuring the city’s most popular primaries can continue to cater for their catchment areas.

What they will not be, on the face of it in any case, are the kind of inspirational learning environments to which we should be aspiring.

As a short-term fix for an immediate problem, they would be 
acceptable.

As permanent additions, they are likely to prove controversial to say the least.

The arguments will continue, but if these plans are ultimately given the go-ahead, we must be careful to ensure they do not set a precedent and that they remain the exceptions rather than the rule.

The environment in which pupils learn is key and when we have the opportunity to improve the city’s school estate, we should be looking to the very best design solutions.

Many of our schools have been standing for more than 100 years. We need buildings which will inspire our children for another century.

Green shoots

Moves to introduce community gardens to hundreds of residents in tenements and high-rise blocks in Edinburgh should be welcomed. The change will save the city council money on maintenance but more importantly will give control of green space to local people to grow their own food.

Residents may initially struggle to see the benefit. But, with encouragement and support from health workers, community gardens can be hugely positive projects for the whole community, particularly young children and the retired.

A similar scheme in Lochend, started last year, has been labelled a success. There is no reason why this can’t be repeated elsewhere.