CATCHMENT areas at 16 city schools are set to be redrawn – and up to five new primaries built – to cope with an influx of thousands of extra pupils from a major bout of housebuilding over the next decade.
Five districts have been earmarked for new primaries while several campuses are set for extensions to accomodate a surge in rolls as part of a drive worth tens of millions of pounds.
Two “super-primaries” are being considered – each containing as many as 29 different classes – with as many as four streams per year group.
The total cost of proposals outlined by education chiefs peaks at around £83 million though not all works are likely to progress.
City leaders will decide which proposals to take forward once a housing roadmap for 30,000 new properties to be built across the Capital by 2024 is rubberstamped. Known as the Local Development Plan (LDP), the roadmap will dicate where education bosses must find space for around 3,500 additional primary and secondary school pupils whose families will be living in the newly-built developments.
Parents have welcomed fresh investment for under-pressure classrooms but are urging transparency from the council over how the cash is spent.
Concerns have been raised about the prospect of extensive catchment reviews amid warnings that families who strategically bought homes close to high performing schools may no longer be given priority for a place.
Luke McCullough, chair of the parent council at Royal High – which may face an extra 441 pupils alongside Forrester and Craigmount secondaries – said: “If they were to say that one school would grow as opposed to another, it would only be by reviewing catchments and we are certainly not supporting that.
“The catchment review would be to shut out areas that are currently in because the school is full – lots of people have made the choice on where they will live based on where their kids go to school.
“Investment needs to be shared across schools to catchment review is not needed.”
Eleven primary school catchment boundaries could be redrawn depending where the extra housing is sited, while five secondary school areas may also be revised.
Planning chiefs said decisions on whether to proceed with new-build primaries in Maybury, Broomhills, Gilmerton, Brunstane and Builyeon Road in Queensferry would be key to determining the extent of catchment reviews at neighbouring schools.
An ambitious programme of multi-classroom extensions has also been unveiled, with work being mulled at primary schools ranging from St John Vianney and St Catherine’s in the south to Gylemuir and Fox Covert RC in the west.
As overcrowded primaries are expanded under the city’s rising rolls programme, parents have urged education chiefs to provide greater clarity on how the new LDP plans will affect high schools ahead of an expected spike in pupil registrations from 2017.
“I have asked a number of times for the council to share their thoughts on how that issue will feed through into the high schools,” said parent chair Luke McCullough.
“It will not be possible to debate the Local Development Plan without first recognising the current issues around rising rolls. While the council is working with primary schools around that issue, they have been fairly quiet on what that means for high schools, especially ones that are pretty full, like the Royal High.”
He added: “Parents want to understand more about what the council is planning for secondaries.
“In reviewing anything, the council has really got to work very closely with local communities.”
Opposition councillors have criticised some of the proposed measures, with plans to transform Gilmerton and Gracemount primaries into 29-class “super primaries”, sparking alarm.
Councillor Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Greens, said: “When we plan long-term for the future education and new schools in the city, we should be aiming high – aiming at best practice. The best school environment and educational outcomes for future generations.
“Schools with two classes in each year are acknowledged to be the optimum providing for the best education – to increase the size of a current school is a false economy.
“We should build our schools at the hearts of our communities where the whole community can easily access by walking or cycling safely to schools.”
Councillor Jason Rust, Conservative education spokesman, said if the Scottish Government demanded more housing it was “vital” there was “adequate infrastucture in place”.
And he said: “The council does not have a glorious track record in terms of future projections given the fact schools were not so long ago closed and any measures need to be carefully scrutinised.
“There is certainly concern that by adding piecemeal new developments to the Water of Leith villages for instance, that the infrastructure requirements are not being properly addressed at present.
“It is obviously sensible for school provision to be considered at this stage, but it needs to be borne in mind that even if sites are allocated for housing then that is not to say development will take place.”
Education bosses said they were planning ahead for swathes of new housing and stressed that not all the options currently on the table would be taken forward.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “The Local Development Plan identifies potential new housing developments needed in Edinburgh and the associated impact on the city’s education infrastructure.
“In many areas further assessment is needed to determine the preferred option but we do recognise that there will be increased pressure on our schools so we will be working very closely with planners to ensure we have the places available to cope with the extra housing.”
Planning for more pupils
OPTIONS under consideration:
1) Brand new primary schools at Maybury, Broomhills, Gilmerton, Brunstane and Builyeon Road, Queensferry.
2) New extensions at Gylemuir, Fox Covert RC, Hillwood, St John Vianney, St Catherine’s, Newcraighall, St Margaret’s and Currie primary schools.
3) The creation of 29-class “super-primaries” at Gracemount and Gilmerton.
4) Several high schools to be expanded individually or in combination – Catholic high schools are also set to increase in size and/or introduce prioritised admission for baptised RC pupils.
Soaring numbers across the Lothians
SOARING school roll is not just a headache for the Capital, local authories across the Lothians are struggling to shoulder their share of the weight.
Education chiefs in West Lothian said a number of options were being considered to accommodate an expected surge in pupil numbers once construction of around 26,400 new homes is complete. They said three new secondary schools – two at Winchburgh and one at Calderwood – would be at the heart of plans to cope with developments in Armadale, East Broxburn & Winchburgh, Livingston and the Almond Valley.
New primary schools will be required across the area, as well as extensions to existing campuses, they added.
Plans for new and extended schools in East Lothian are less advanced but education bosses said proposals would be “carefully considered”.
A spokeswoman said: “We cannot comment until the Main Issues Report has been agreed and is out for consultation.
“The Main Issues Report which will inform the Local Development Plan will consider where and how new housing should be accommodated within East Lothian.”
Midlothian council leaders said options would be presented over the coming months once the results of a recent public consultation are considered.
Catchments under review
Primaries: Cramond, Corstorphine, Gylemuir, Hillwood, Gracemount, Gilmerton, Liberton, Craigour Park, Newcraighall, Echline and Queensferry,
Secondary: Royal, Craigmount, Forrester, Liberton and Gracemount high schools.