School places will come under further pressure if Labour win​​​​​​​ - Sue Webber

The new Currie Community High School is set to be Scotland's first secondary school to meet strict energy-efficiency Passivhaus standards.  The 1,000-capacity, £65 million replacement for the current Currie High will also have shared school and community sports facilities, a learning resource centre and community café.  It is now under construction and is due for completion by early 2025.The new Currie Community High School is set to be Scotland's first secondary school to meet strict energy-efficiency Passivhaus standards.  The 1,000-capacity, £65 million replacement for the current Currie High will also have shared school and community sports facilities, a learning resource centre and community café.  It is now under construction and is due for completion by early 2025.
The new Currie Community High School is set to be Scotland's first secondary school to meet strict energy-efficiency Passivhaus standards. The 1,000-capacity, £65 million replacement for the current Currie High will also have shared school and community sports facilities, a learning resource centre and community café. It is now under construction and is due for completion by early 2025.
Readers of this column might have noticed I’m very proud of my local school, Currie High. It gave me a great education which enabled me to get to Edinburgh University and I’ve never really looked back.

It’s a brilliant community asset for which I fought tooth and nail to save when Edinburgh Council planned its closure and to build a new school on the other side of the City Bypass. It would have torn the heart from the community.

Next year it’s due to move into a new home built to the highest environmental standards, and with a four-court sports hall, gym, dance studio and four-lane swimming pool it will continue to be a vital hub for the whole area. But here’s the thing; Edinburgh Council’s school roll projections show it will be over-subscribed almost the minute it opens, exceeding its 900 capacity beyond 2033.

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And it’s why on the doorsteps in this election campaign, people want to know what will happen if a new Labour government carries out its threat to impose 20 per cent VAT on private schools?

But we already know what’s going to happen because the Scottish Council of Independent Schools conducted an extensive survey of parents and at a conservative estimate there will be an exodus of over 1000 Edinburgh pupils from the independent sector.

Each one will have a right to be educated at their catchment area school and from the blazers I see on the bus most mornings and the coachload of Erskine Stewart’s Melville kids heading towards Balerno every evening, a significant number would be knocking on the door of Currie and Balerno Highs, both at capacity.

These are not the children of the caricature mega-wealthy toffs the Labour Party has in its sights, but of parents who have made sacrifices to do what they think is best for their families.

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Individually, I do not think they will have a worse experience at schools like Currie, and committed parents will ensure they do not miss out on things like team sports. But collectively all pupils will suffer if their school is bursting at the seams.

This is a policy driven by Labour’s London elite who think every private school is like Eton or Fettes where money is no object for most parents, and forgetting the Scottish education establishment’s resistance to change means there is no choice other than comprehensive v private, other than already full Catholic schools.

Every Edinburgh Council school in areas with high concentrations of privately educated pupils will be over capacity in the next 18 months, and Labour’s plan threatens the experience of every pupil. Not a penny of the VAT raised will go to their education because it will be swallowed by the cost of higher numbers, about £8000 for each pupil which the state currently doesn’t have to fund.

But what makes me really angry is the Labour Party knows this and their education shadow Bridget Phillipson is fully aware because Ian Murray has told her.

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Yet she and Sir Keir Starmer are peddling the lie that it will generate more money for education and will have no impact on class sizes.

And if they can lie about something as obvious as this in opposition, heaven help us all if they are in government.

Sue Webber is a Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP

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