Celebrities back campaign to keep Castlebrae High School open

Castlebrae Community High School
Castlebrae Community High School
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SOME of Scotland’s best-known celebrities are backing a campaign to save the Capital’s Castlebrae High School.

Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh, comedian Elaine C Smith and arts impresario Ricky Demarco are among hundreds to join a Facebook push to save the school – slated for closure by the city council in the autumn.

Ricky Demarco

Ricky Demarco

The council has insisted it intends to press ahead with plans to build a new school once the local area has been regenerated.

News of the celebrity-backed drive to save the school came after local campaigners gathered hundreds more signatures for an online petition they will use to lobby MSPs and councillors.

Edinburgh-based Mr Demarco, who has a long-standing relationship with community arts projects produced in the area, said: “It is a mortal blow to the community life in Craigmillar and also the welfare of the city.”

Senior political figures have also voiced support for the campaign to keep Castlebrae open.

Elaine C Smith

Elaine C Smith

Sheila Gilmore, Edinburgh East Labour MP, said: “Capacity is largely looked at in terms of raw numbers, whereas we believe a wider range of issues need to be considered.

“There is still time before the decision is made to have this reversed. Craigmillar needs a school and it needs more affordable housing.”

Kezia Dugdale, Lothians Labour MSP and youth employment spokesman, is also backing the campaign.

She said: “It is important because it’s far more than just a school. It’s a central part of the Craigmillar community and provides critical services for pre-schoolers, for adults and indeed old age pensioners.

“The closure of the school will have a devastating impact on the community and I believe contribute to a slowing of the regeneration efforts in the area.”

City education bosses have claimed the 196 pupils who attend Castlebrae High represent an occupancy rate of just 33 per cent. They said this is expected to decline further to 158 in 2015.

Save the Brae chairman Kevin Finlay said there was still hope in the area for a new facility. He said: “Build a school today. Rebuild a community tomorrow. You’ve got the design. You’ve got the land. You’ve got outline planning permission. You’ve got 200 ready and waiting pupils.”

Education convener Paul Godzik said: “We have a commitment to provide our children with the best possible start in life.

“As things stand Castlebrae Community High School is not able to offer a full curriculum and is achieving very poor educational outcomes and that is why we chose to consult on the future of the school.

“We want all our young people to have the opportunities to learn, thrive and reach their full potential and it is our duty to make sure every child gets the education and support they need to do this. This process does not affect the council’s long-term aspiration to build a new high school in the area. We are still very much committed to this.

“Further regeneration will bring more new housing and more families for which a new, modern, fully functional school will be necessary once the pupil numbers in the 
area rise to a level that requires it.”