Council faces £18.5m bill for overcrowded schools

Seven city primary schools are set to undergo emergency expansion. Picture: Greg Macvean
Seven city primary schools are set to undergo emergency expansion. Picture: Greg Macvean
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SEVEN more city primary schools are set to undergo emergency expansion after the anticipated need for new teaching space to address overcrowding jumped by nearly 30 per cent since last year.

Clermiston, East Craigs, Flora Stevenson, Gilmerton, Pentland, Ratho and Wardie primaries have been lined up to receive the space-boosting revamps by August 2015.

City leaders said 81 new classrooms could now be required to meet the challenge of rising school rolls – up from last year’s estimate of 63 and fuelling a rise in the overall cost of expansion work to £18.5 million.

With £14.9m already allocated, the sudden jump leaves council bosses facing a funding shortfall of £3.6m – before the costs of dealing with additional space pressure at Bruntsfield, James Gillespie’s and South Morningside primaries are factored in.

Education chiefs also said the cost of new dining and food preparation space ahead of the roll-out of free school meals for all P1-3 youngsters from January 2015 was likely to run to “millions”.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “We’ve got to respond to the numbers of pupils coming through. There’s a real peak in the south and west of the city, and we have to deal with that.”

Education chiefs will pore over action plans for the seven primary schools, with potential measures including new-build accommodation, catchment reviews and extensions.

Wardie Primary was part of the first phase of the Rising Rolls programme but a second tranche of new accommodation at the school has been included in the latest wave of proposed work.

Cllr Godzik said the rise in the total number of classrooms needed to accommodate the rising school populations had been driven by recent changes in demand at individual primaries across the Capital.

“Tracking pupils from birth to where they go to primary school in a city as fast-changing as Edinburgh is an impossibility,” he said. “But the immediate demand there can and will be met. There’s also work under way in terms of how we will deliver free school meals.”

Government ministers said they were committed to free school meals in Edinburgh and that they would work with Cosla – the body that represents Scotland’s local authorities – to address the new
policy’s “practical implications”.

A spokeswoman said: “We are working in partnership with Cosla to explore how any practical implications will be addressed, building on the experience of the free school meal trial which ran over 2007-08 in order to deliver our commitment on free school meals.”

Building for the future

Clermiston Primary: Provide additional on-site accommodation, possible catchment reviews with East Craigs and Fox Covert primaries.

East Craigs Primary: Probe being carried out into the delivery of a new gym hall at the school, which currently relies on a single hall for both gym and dining provision (P1-3 free school meals will lead to “unsustainable” pressure); the existing building could be extended at a cost of £1.1m.

Flora Stevenson Primary: Discussions will now take place over providing a new standalone building at the school, and underrtaking a catchment review with Ferryhill Primary.

Gilmerton Primary: Provide additional accommodation, possible catchment review with Craigour Park Primary, internal courtyards could be covered and developed to create new classroom space.

Pentland Primary: Provide additional accommodation at the school.

Ratho Primary: Provide additional accomm-odation at the school.

Wardie Primary (pictured below): Designs have been drawn up for a second “tranche” of accommodation, with building and planning consent already secured – education chiefs will now look to take work on the new classrooms forward.