New South Edinburgh primary school delayed - just in case anything goes wrong

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A NEW primary school expected to open in 2020 will be delayed by 12 months despite the council being reassured by contractors the work will be completed on time.

The city council has decided to delay the opening of the new Canaan Lane primary school in Morningside until August 2021 to ensure “unexpected delays” do not force the authority into a scramble to find alternative schools for new pupils starting P1.

Council bosses have been reassured by the contractors that work will be completed by August 2020 – but the authority is unwilling to take a risk that any problems could force the project to be delayed into the new school year.

Building work at Boroughmuir High School was delayed by 17 months and when it opened its doors in February, was already in need of expansion for 300 extra pupils. In February, the council agreed £12.2 million in its capital budget for the new Morningside school – while £6 million was allocated from the sale of the old Boroughmuir High building.

It is hoped the school - unofficially dubbed North Morningside Primary - will help ease accommodation pressure bearing down on James Gillespie’s, South Morningside and Bruntsfield primaries, where classrooms are full to bursting as rolls soar.

In a letter to councillors, school estate planning officer Ian Tame, said: “This will mean that P1 classes and any upper stage classes can both start in the new building at the same time in August 2021. Current catchment arrangements will continue to apply for registrations in November 2019.

“The reason for this change is that while the contractor estimates the new school building can still be delivered for August 2020, there is no scope in the programme for any unexpected delays which may arise during the construction period.” 

He added: “If there was any delay to completing the new school building there is no obvious contingency plan for where the new P1 intake would go and last minute changes of locations for new P1 pupils would be very disruptive to the families involved.

“The new arrangements of opening the full school in August 2021 will give certainty to the families that are within the new school’s catchment area.”

Green councillor Melanie Main said she had raised the potential stumbling block previously and called on the council to get its act together when managing big projects.

She said: “I raised this issue a year ago as I was concerned that there was no wiggle room built into the time-scale and yet any delays at all would leave families high and dry.

“Just down the road we have seen the new Boroughmuir High School arrive 17 months late and, even without all the problems of that contract it would be unwise simply to assume no delays at all to the new primary school.

“In setting out its time-scales for new projects the council still needs to get an awful lot better at identifying risks and working them into project management.”

Conservative councillor Nick Cook said: “Like many local parents, I am deeply disappointed at the council’s announcement.

“This school has been promised for several years and this delay will place even greater pressure on South Morningside Primary and other affected primaries in our community.”

Brian Sharp, chair of the parent council at South Morningside Primary, said he was “really disappointed” but 
not entirely surprised the school was not going to open on time.

He said: “What we want is some sort of guarantee it’s going to go ahead. We are at capacity at the moment.

“We can just about accommodate the roll as it is but there are more and more people with children moving into the area. A new school is an absolute necessity. There are developments all over the place.”

And Mr Sharp was sceptical about why the council anticipated “unexpected delays”. He said: “All they are doing is flattening one building and putting up a new one.

“All the services - water, sewerage, electricity will be on site. I fail to see what problems they are going to come across.”