Controversial Edinburgh school merger bid axed

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Two Edinburgh schools threatened with closure are set to stay open as the council is poised for a dramatic U-turn after failing to win support from opposition parties.

Parents and protesters had rallied for the council to save Currie High School and Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC) from being merged together into a “super school”.

Protest outside the city chambers over proposed school closures

Protest outside the city chambers over proposed school closures

The minority administration at the city council had hoped to win political support for the merger. But after Conservatives and Greens had pledged their support for both schools to remain open, the Liberal Democrats have now also backed the campaign – meaning the council’s plans have been scuppered ahead of a crunch meeting tomorrow.

Liberal Democrat Councillor Louise Young said the swell of support to save the schools helped form her party’s decision.

She said: “Liberal Democrat councillors believe in meaningful consultation – we listened carefully to the views expressed by parents and the arguments they put across.

“While not unanimous, the overwhelming view from the affected communities has been in favour of improving both schools on their current sites. The option of a single larger school simply did not command support from parents.”

Labour councillors, who run the council administration with the SNP, had backed option four [to merge the schools] –with the decision split as Cllr Ricky Henderson and Cllr Scott Arthur wished to back the schools both being saved.

Both WHEC and Currie High School will need to be replaced and the council believes merging them into a bigger school would provide better learning opportunities.

Education convener Cllr Ian Perry admitted defeat, but paid tribute to the campaigners.
He said: “My preferred option would be option four but I have to accept that the opposition parties will carry the day and it will now be the status quo.”

He added: “I think option four is the better option both in terms of our equality agenda and also I’m convinced it would raise attainment of the lowest achieving pupils.”

Campaigner Lee Picken said: “We were absolutely delighted to hear that the Liberal Democrats have decided to join the Conservatives and the Greens in voting for option one and we want to thank them for taking the time to consult with us and to listen to the overwhelming support within our communities and the evidence we provided in support of our campaign.

“It will be a triumph for the consultation process.”