Three Edinburgh schools set to get rebuild guarantee

The rebuilding of Liberton and two other high schools will require the government to allocate extra funding to the council. Picture: Greg Macvean
The rebuilding of Liberton and two other high schools will require the government to allocate extra funding to the council. Picture: Greg Macvean
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THREE city high schools are guaranteed to be rebuilt under newly-published council investment plans, while the go-ahead for another three will be dependent on match-funding from the Scottish Government.

Currie High, Trinity Academy and Castlebrae High would all be replaced over the next five years if councillors back proposals for an extra £78 million of investment in the school building programme on top of £25m already set aside.

Trinity Academy. Picture: TSPL

Trinity Academy. Picture: TSPL

But the other three schools on the list for new buildings – Wester Hailes Education Centre and Liberton and Balerno Highs – will require the government to allocate funding of just over £100m to the council if replacements are to be completed within the same timeframe.

Feasibility studies found in all six cases replacement was more cost effective than refurbishment.

A seventh school which has not seen significant capital investment, Leith Academy, is set to be refurbished rather than rebuilt.

A report to next week’s meeting of the finance and resources committee says the full “Wave 4” schools investment programme, costed at £207m, will be able to go ahead if the Scottish Government maintains the 50 per cent match-funding it gave previous projects. The new schools will be designed as community hubs, with the buildinwgs used more intensively outside normal hours.

Castlebrae Community High School. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Castlebrae Community High School. Picture: Ian Georgeson

The schools were prioritised according to the life expectancy of their buildings, their ability to accommodate projected pupil numbers and the condition of the premises.

Education vice-convener Alison Dickie said: “Our ambition is to replace poor condition high school buildings and deliver modern, fit for purpose, learning campuses which are innovatively designed and inspirational places for learning.

“This vision will see us develop good quality and nurturing environments that not only meet all future educational needs but also benefit the wider local communities.

“We estimate that £207m is needed and our potential council funding of £103m would see the first three schools of Castlebrae, Currie and Trinity being delivered by 2024. Whilst Edinburgh Council are responsible for delivering Edinburgh’s schools, the current funding gap for replacing the three remaining schools, WHEC, Liberton and Balerno, would require Scottish Government funding if they are to stand the best chance of being replaced within a similar timescale.

Balerno High School 'might' be getting rebuilt. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Balerno High School 'might' be getting rebuilt. Picture: Ian Georgeson

“We are hopeful that an announcement of additional government funding will be made in the future and for this reason we are developing master plans for all six schools so we are in a good place to bid if the opportunity arises.”

The £25m council funding already allocated has allowed design work to start on the replacement for Castlebrae and Trinity’s new sports facilities at Bangholm. The extra £78m investment is expected to come from borrowing.

But the council is also due to receive some contributions from developers – £2.56m for Trinity, £7.84m for the Castlebrae replacement and £9.95m for Liberton.

And it is also planning to sell off surplus land at the schools.

The report says disposal of the Castlebrae site once a new Craigmillar high school is opened is expected to raise £5m. At Currie, some land at the western end of the site should bring in £4.8m; land at the western end of the WHEC site should generate £3m; land at Liberton is expected to bring in another £4.8m; and leaving the Victorian building and tower block at Trinity once the new building is completed is forecast to raise £4.7m.

The report recommends that if there is not enough money to complete all six rebuilds, necessary works should be carried out at WHEC, Liberton and Balerno until funding becomes available for full replacements.

It says the masterplans for Liberton and Balerno would include a “phasing strategy” to ensure some elements of the new school could still be built even if only part of the funding was available.

Tory education spokesman Callum Laidlaw said in view of the uncertainty over the funding available the council should consider refurbishing some schools rather than fully rebuilding them.

He said: “There is a question mark over whether we will get sufficient funding for all six schools

“We need to make sure we have a safe and suitable environment for our children, but we also need to give certainty to parents and pupils.

“The council has to persuade the government of the importance of funding these works.

“But I think we need to be looking at where we can strategically refurbish schools rather than making commitments to rebuild schools when there is uncertainty over whether that is possible.”

Green education spokeswoman Mary Campbell welcomed the proposed council investment but stressed the need for the government to come up with the rest of the funding.

She said: “This is an important step forward in funding much-needed new high schools.

“School communities from Craigmillar to Balerno and from Liberton to Trinity need to hear that the council understands just how compelling the need for modern 21st century schools is. There are still lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’.

“The council still has to formally include within its future budgets that £78m; the Scottish Government still has to commit to match fund the council’s money; and the scale of capital receipts outlined would need to be agreed. So there is a lot of work still to do.

“It is now vital that the Scottish Government matches the council’s ambition.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Strong progress has been made under Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme, and we intend to build upon this success and develop Scotland’s Learning Estate Strategy/Investment Plan.

“The detailed development is under way and ministers will make an announcement later this year.”