Edinburgh school catchment review: parent pleads for spirit of unity

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ONE of the leaders of a successful joint campaign to halt controversial school merger proposals today appealed for parents to preserve a spirit of co-operation over the latest education shake-up plan.

David Erskine chaired the Save our Schools action group which brought together parents from Currie High, Wester Hailes Education Centre and Balerno High last year in opposition to council plans to close both Currie and WHEC and create a new super-school.

Dean Park Primary School. Picture:  Ian Georgeson.

Dean Park Primary School. Picture: Ian Georgeson.

Now council chiefs want to change the catchment areas for the three primary schools serving Currie and Balerno.

And Mr Erskine fears the consultation - which closes today - has been turned into a battle between the two villages.

Under the plans, Currie Primary loses some of its catchment area to Nether Currie Primary and some to Dean Park Primary in Balerno.

Mr Erskine said: “Some have attempted to frame this proposal divisively, with a ‘them or us’ choice between Balerno and Currie villages that does not exist.

“The options are to do with a slightly more boring balancing of catchment with capacity, and with options to build for the future in either one or both locations. A lot of unfounded rhetoric and side issues have been replacing normal considerations.

“I’d like to make an appeal to all residents to continue trying to get the best deal for themselves, but not to the extent that it impacts negatively on their neighbours.”

Projections suggest pupil numbers at Currie Primary are set to rise from 470 to 669 by 2027, while Dean Park would increase from 455 to 456 and Nether Currie from 153 to 172.

The review proposes parts of Currie Primary’s catchment area, including part of Lanark Road West, Kirkgate and Blinkbonny and the new housing development at Kinleith Mills, would transfer to Nether Currie, while the Dalmahoy, Cherry Tree and Newmills areas would be switched to Dean Park.

There is little dispute over the changes involving Nether Currie, but Currie Primary parent council opposes losing part of its catchment area at the other side to Dean Park.

Mr Erskine said a majority of residents affected by the plans had expressed a preference for their children to go to Currie Primary rather than Dean Park.

He said children would face longer journey times across a major road to get to Dean Park rather than the existing residential route to Currie Primary.

And he argued an extension just completed at Currie meant the school was no longer over capacity and a planned second phase would add another three classrooms, enough to cope with the projected increase in the roll.

But the parent council at Dean Park supports the proposed catchment change on the grounds that the Cherry Tree and Newmills areas are part of Balerno and should be served by the Balerno school.

Under the council plans the second phase of building at Currie would be scrapped and five new classrooms would be built at Dean Park.

Pentland Hills Conservative councillor Susan Webber said: “I think we have underestimated the strength of feeling or residents in Newmills and Cherry Tree - on both sides of the argument.”