Campaign to save Edinburgh high school wins public support

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THE man behind a petition calling for an Edinburgh high school to be kept open has said he is not surprised by the public’s response after it topped 2000 signatures.

Aaron Aitken launched the petition to keep Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC) open it emerged the council was considering merging it with Currie High School.

Parents and children outside the Wester Hailes Education centre -
left, Steven Crichton, 8 and David Paterson, 12

Parents and children outside the Wester Hailes Education centre - left, Steven Crichton, 8 and David Paterson, 12

The proposal would see both schools close and a new south west Edinburgh high school open in August 2022.

But the idea was met with a public outcry from both school communities, with a petition launched to “save” Currie High now exceeding 3000 signatures.

Now a similar petition on behalf of WHEC has broken through the 2000 signature mark Aaron, 23, a former WHEC pupil who volunteers in the school’s drama department, was at WHEC when the proposals emerged.

He said: “I was volunteering in the school the day the teachers were sitting in a meeting that they all found out.

“It was a very sad atmosphere for the rest of the day. A lot of the teachers have been through the threat of closure in the past so I think it brought back a lot of those feelings.”

Aaron said he was keen to use the petition for people to have their voices heard, adding: “WHEC plays a huge part in the community so it’s nice to give people that platform.”

The proposals, part of the council’s ongoing schools review, would also see the creation of a separate west Edinburgh high school, a new Maybury Primary School and the expansion of refurbishment of Balerno High.

But Callum Laidlaw, Conservative education spokesman, said the proposed merger 
had come as a “shock and surprise”.

He said: “I think there’s a larger question here. Obviously if you have a big new school like we have in Portobello, yes, we can have amazing facilities.

“But Currie Community High – the clue is in the name. It’s a community high and do we want to move away from schools that are in the heart of the community? It’s the same with WHEC.”

The council has previously stressed that no decision has been made and that they welcome people’s views.

Education convener Ian Perry said: “We fully appreciate that these proposals would mean changes for parents and school communities, however we must prioritise learning needs and focus on our aspirations for all pupils and future generations. I’m delighted to say that people have been contacting us with their ideas for changes and we will publicise them ahead of the planned school meetings in the New Year. All options will be considered and we are open to any suggestions that come into us.”

Vice convener Alison Dickie added: “Building one new larger school will provide enhanced opportunities to create a wider curricular offer to all pupils.

“One thing which is also clear from the early feedback is that the sporting and community facilities in all of the high schools are valued by the community.

“We will consider all the options for these being protected or improved as we move through the consultation period.”