Anger at plan to shut school for vulnerable pupils

A classroom at Panmure St Ann's School. Picture: Ian Rutherford
A classroom at Panmure St Ann's School. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A SCHOOL serving some of the Capital’s most vulnerable pupils is set to close – sparking concern over the educational future of youngsters who attend it.

City leaders are proposing to shut Panmure St Ann’s in the Cowgate and merge it with Gorgie Mills School.

They said the move would contribute towards achieving a four-year savings target of 
£141 million, which must be met if the books are to be balanced.

But it has also emerged Panmure is operating “significantly below” budgeted capacity.

The school’s roll – which was 47 in 2013 – is understood to be falling and directors are looking at how services could be delivered differently.

Employing around 11 full-time teachers, Panmure is one of 13 special and secure service institutions where staff work with youngsters who have significant emotional, psychological and behavioural issues.

Parent leaders said they had an “open mind” on the proposal but stressed that any plan likely to damage the personal and educational progress of pupils would be resisted.

Alex Ramage, parent representative on the city council’s education committee, said: “If it would be better for the needs of the children to be at a larger school with better resources to manage those needs then merging might make sense.

“But I would not support anything that would reduce the educational outcomes of the children. It looks to me as if the council wants to do something as the school is operating well below budgeted capacity and there may be a better way of delivering the service.”

If closure is approved, it is thought Panmure’s roll would be transferred to Gorgie Mills, which is located more than two miles away and has 60 pupils.

Opposition leaders said they would expect a full consultation.

Councillor Melanie Main, Green education spokeswoman, said: “In that process I’ll be looking for clear evidence that the education and support needs of the current young people attending – and those who might have attended in the future – are better met in other schools and services.”

Union leaders have warned against pursuing closure purely on cost-cutting grounds.

A spokeswoman for the EIS, Scotland’s largest teaching union, said: “The proposal to close a school can often be challenging for communities, parents, pupils and teachers and it is therefore important that any such proposals are handled in an suitable manner with appropriate consultation.”

Education bosses stressed that Panmure teachers had been briefed fully.

A spokeswoman said: “We believe merging the current service with an enhanced Gorgie Mills School would have clear educational benefits to those in our care. It is important to remember that no decision has been made and would be subject to statutory consultation and the agreement of councillors and the Scottish Government.”