THE number of Edinburgh primary schools shutting their doors to non-catchment children has quadrupled since the start of the current session, the Evening News can reveal.
New figures show 39 primaries have refused all placing requests for P1 classes beginning this August – up from 10 in the same month last year.
Fresh evidence of a relentless squeeze on the legally enshrined principle of parent choice comes after we revealed last week that the number of applications submitted and refused across the Capital hit a five-year high in 2013. And while the overall number of requests for the coming session has dropped to 706, the refusal rate has jumped from half to just over 60 per cent.
Amid an ongoing population boom, there are signs that parents have begun to accept significant new limits on their ability to choose where children attend primary school.
Nicola Clark-Tonberg, chair of the parent council at Broughton Primary, which rejected all placing requests in 2013 and this year, said: “I know friends of mine have had problems getting children into Broughton even though they have siblings there already.
“The situation is different to how it was only a few years ago and maybe we all need to realise that’s how it’s going to be now. You feel your child should go to a local school and that school should be a good school – but not everybody feels their local school is good.”
Education bosses stressed the latest data could change as families move out of catchment or opt to send youngsters to private school between now and August, freeing up places for families on waiting lists.
But indicative figures showing a drop of well over 300 in the number of requests received will be welcomed by city leaders after a hard-hitting campaign was launched to promote catchment schools.
Opposition leaders, meanwhile, have called on council chiefs to develop a far better understanding of why hundreds of parents across the Capital continue to go down the placing request route.
Councillor Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the city’s Greens, said: “The council has been exhorting parents to look first and foremost at their local school and that seems to be having some impact.
“But I’d like a little less exhortation and a little more listening to parents about the reasons they make placing requests. That will help the council understand how to better communicate what all schools have to offer and plan properly for the ebbing and flowing of school numbers.”
Education bosses – who have now written to 433 families confirming their placing requests were unsuccessful – said they were doing everything possible to manage booming demand for spots at city primaries.
But they warned the days when parents could pick and choose schools were over.
Cllr Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “The reality is that the rising rolls facing our primary schools mean that choosing an out of catchment school for children is becoming much more difficult.”