Brand new Edinburgh high schools full within four years

TWO brand new city schools will be full to bursting within four years, it has emerged.

Thursday, 19th May 2016, 5:22 am
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2016, 7:17 am
The new Boroughmuir High School takes shape. Picture: Greg Macvean
The new Boroughmuir High School takes shape. Picture: Greg Macvean

Almost £80 million has been spent constructing cutting-edge facilities for James Gillespie’s and Boroughmuir high schools.

But the secondaries are too small to cope with ballooning school rolls – and will be over-capacity by 154 pupils by 2020.


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James Gillespie's High School. Picture: Greg Macvean

Within a decade, they will have 540 pupils too many, according to projections, as their combined rolls rocket from their current 2341 to 3040. Their total capacity is just 2500.

Critics branded the numbers “shocking” and said the council had got it “badly wrong” by building facilities that were simply not big enough.

In a report set to go before councillors next week, officials admit “continuing pressure” has led to a situation that is “not sustainable”.

They suggest turning the Darroch facility on Gillespie Street, just off Gilmore Place, into a permanent annexe that the two schools could use for teaching.

James Gillespie's High School. Picture: Greg Macvean

But bosses confessed this would still not be enough to deal with the issue long-term.

James Gillespie’s is under further pressure because it takes in pupils from across the Lothian region as the nominated Gaelic high school.

Officials are now considering moving its Gaelic provision to another secondary with more space – such as Castlebrae, Leith Academy or Liberton.

One rejected plan could even have seen the Darroch buildings – which are currently used as overspill classrooms – turned into a separate high school for Gaelic pupils.

Councillor Jason Rust, Edinburgh’s Tory education spokesman, said the focus needed to be on raising academic standards at other city schools to reduce the demand on top performers such as James Gillespie’s and Boroughmuir.

He said: “I think parents will just be quite frustrated that the council has not got a grip on this issue as a whole.

“It’s obviously very disappointing if there are new, purpose-built facilities and they are not adequate to cater for the number of pupils.”

Councillor Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the Greens, added: “It is shocking that two new high schools are not yet completed and occupied, and already they are too small.

“Something has gone seriously wrong here. The council should have known this crisis was coming, so a properly planned long-term solution could have been implemented.”

City bosses said the problem was partly down to more parents choosing the two schools – possibly as a result of fewer opting to go private.

Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, said: “As part of the rebuilding programme both James Gillespie’s and Boroughmuir have increased their capacity so they can take more pupils.

“However, we are seeing an unprecedented rise in the school population in south Edinburgh and as such the current projected rolls predict there will be capacity issues in coming years.

“Both are exceptionally popular schools with more and more families choosing to stay in the area, possibly due to more family-sized properties becoming available given the rise in purpose-built student accommodation.

“Whilst the flexibility which was incorporated into the design of both of the new schools has allowed their capacity to be increased, we do predict an issue in the future which we are planning for now.”