School roll falls after headteacher abuse charge

Castlebrae pupils and parents held a protest when their school was slated for closure last year. Picture: Neil Hanna
Castlebrae pupils and parents held a protest when their school was slated for closure last year. Picture: Neil Hanna
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A TROUBLED high school has seen its prospective pupil intake plummet by a third after its headteacher was charged with domestic abuse.

The number of pupils applying to join Castlebrae Community High School plunged to 27 this year – a major shortfall on the 46 applications originally expected by council chiefs before projections were reduced to 38.

The nose-diving figures come weeks after multiple assault charges were brought against headteacher Derek Curran, 54, who has been released on bail.

Dubbed a “superhead”, Mr Curran was parachuted into Craigmillar school to reverse its ailing fortunes after it nearly closed amid poor exam results and tumbling rolls.

To boost performance and promote the school, all 130 pupils received free iPads while a radical re-arrangement of classrooms was introduced to create a new teaching core.

The school appeared to be getting back on track with the projected number of S1 pupils for the coming term leaping to 46 from an intake of just nine at the beginning of the 2013-14 academic year. It was slated for closure in March last year after the school roll dropped to barely a quarter of its capacity of 600 pupils. But councillors voted to keep it open despite officials arguing that millions could be saved by annexing it on to Portobello High School.

Today, parent leaders expressed dismay that recent progress had been squandered and urged school leaders to “steady the ship” as quickly as possible.

Susan Heron, parent council vice-chair, said: “It’s gutting that we had [projected enrolment of] 40-odds and that’s drastically come down to 20-odds.

“I just hope that we can get back to normality. Let’s get back to teaching the children and giving them the grounds for the future rather than this nonsense of what’s being going on with court cases and things that have nothing to do with the school.”

She added: “I just hope that the new head can take the helm, steady the ship, get away from all these scandals, and get doing what the school is there to do – teaching young people and giving them positive outcomes.”

After Mr Curran was charged with domestic abuse, Norma Prentice, headteacher at Drummond Community High, was drafted in to lead Castlebrae throughout the 2014-15 session.

Education chiefs stressed this year’s S1 intake was still significantly higher than the same period last year.

Confirmation that a new school will definitely be built at Portobello may have persuaded some parents to switch there, sources said.

A spokeswoman said: “Enrolment figures for all schools do differ year on year. We are delighted to be welcoming three times as many pupils into Castlebrae’s S1 than last year, and we wish all students a positive start to the new school term.”