Fears for Tollcross after Gaels quit school

FEARS are growing for the future of Tollcross Primary as the departure of Gaelic pupils will lead to its roll dropping to one of the lowest in the city.

Monday, 31st October 2011, 12:12 pm

Calls are being made for council bosses to fulfil their pledge to maintain the school, even when the roll drops to just 45 per cent occupancy.

Councillors agreed last week to close the Gaelic Medium Education (GME) unit at Tollcross in 2013 and create the city’s first dedicated Gaelic school in the former Bonnington Primary in Leith.

The move will leave Tollcross with around eight empty classrooms and a significantly depleted school roll, leading to fears it could become a target for closure.

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One of the options being suggested by concerned parents is a catchment review of the area, which could increase pupil numbers at the school, as well as relieving pressure on nearby over-subscribed schools such as Bruntsfield, Sciennes and James Gillespie’s.

Parents from Tollcross Primary’s English stream raised fears earlier this year about what would happen if the Gaelic pupils left, and have been seeking assurances ever since.

Parent council member Naomi Hare argues the area needs a catchment review.

She said: “Families do live in the current catchment area, but not to the extent you might expect from an inner city area.

“It needs to widen its grasp and a catchment review would relieve the pressure on a lot of the other schools in the area.”

Currently, the catchment for Tollcross Primary takes in the areas of Tollcross, Fountainbridge, West End and Old Town.

Councillor Paul Godzik, Labour’s education spokesman, said he was told last week by senior council officials that they were looking at a catchment review as a potential option for increasing the roll, though the authority has said there are currently no plans for this.

Cllr Godzik said: “Parents aren’t suddenly going to move their kids out of Sciennes, Bruntsfield and James Gillespie’s to put them in Tollcross, so they need to do something to make it happen.

“I demanded firm assurances throughout the process and have received it from a number of council officers. I asked what action would be taken to ensure that the roll at Tollcross Primary is increased in the coming years and they said they will look at a few options, including the possibility of a catchment review of the area.

“Schools around Tollcross Primary are all experiencing pressures. The space is there at Tollcross and, ultimately, everyone wants that space to be filled.”

Cllr Godzik added that he was told another option being investigated by council bosses was to increase the nursery provision at Tollcross, so parents would then move children straight into primary one.

City education leader Cllr Marilyne MacLaren said: “Tollcross is well placed to continue to thrive and flourish thanks to its dedicated staff team, HMIE success and through natural growth from its catchment area.

“We also think that new developments in the area can increase the pupil population within Tollcross area.”