‘Vulture’ cries as city backs closure consultation plans

Pupils and parents are fighting to save Castlebrae Community High School. Picture Ian Rutherford
Pupils and parents are fighting to save Castlebrae Community High School. Picture Ian Rutherford
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ANGRY parents have hit out at the city council after it approved plans to consult on the closure of Castlebrae Community High School following poor exam results and a falling school roll.

There were calls of “vultures” and “Save the Brae because we’re not going away” during a meeting yesterday at which the majority of councillors – 12 out of 18 – voted in favour of taking the next step towards shutting the school down.

More than a dozen parents attended the education committee meeting, several of whom wore red “Save the Brae” T-shirts and pleaded with the council to consider keeping the school open.

It is anticipated that the 200 pupils at the Craigmillar school will transfer to Liberton, Portobello and Holy Rood high schools – which each have space to accommodate additional pupils – following the proposed closure next summer.

However, parents expressed fears their children will be bullied and “victimised” at other schools, and underlined that there were various vocational courses on offer at Castlebrae, ranging from hairdressing to mechanics, which were also popular among pupils from other schools.

Honor Flynn, who has two daughters at Castlebrae and is also the chair of the school’s parent forum, said a pupil at Castlebrae recently moved to Portobello High but only lasted four days due to “constant bullying”.

She added: “I think one of the things that has really upset me is this report [recommending consultation on closure] has been done by council officers who probably haven’t even been in the school. We would like a chance to turn things around.

“We get children from Portobello and Liberton doing vocational stuff at Castlebrae and if you vote to shut the school, none of that would happen.”

Concerns were also raised about the potential closure of the school’s family centre, which provides childcare 

Education director Gillian Tee, who insisted closing the school was not about saving money, reassured parents that none of the community services would be withdrawn if the school did close.

“We will make sure that each and every one of those community services is maintained for the community and we will detail how that’s done in the next report,” she said.

Parents also argued that the reason the school roll had fallen was because the council had given no commitment to 
keeping it open, which meant it offered no stability.

The current roll at Castlebrae is the lowest in the city and just a third of its 600-pupil capacity. That is expected to decline further in the next few years, dropping to just 158 pupils in 2015 – 26 per cent of its capacity.

The city’s education leader, Paul Godzik, said: “We have decided to consult on the closure of Castlebrae because it is not doing enough to deliver a rounded education for pupils.

“Over the coming months we will work with the community to ensure we make the right decision for the young people of the area.”