Comment: Emulating the success is best way forward

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For years Boroughmuir High has been one of Scotland’s most successful state secondary schools. But now it is finding that success can bring its problems.

The school is facing oversubscription as parents have opted to enrol their children to 
Boroughmuir, shunning the private schools that long used to be the first-choice option for the Capital’s parents.

Boroughmuir has received S1 catchment registrations well over its intake limit – and the highest for a decade.

Traditionally there was a “drop-off” in the catchment area as parents opted to send their children to independent schools. But this has faded, bringing a jump in projected first-year rolls.

The school’s surge in popularity follows its success in being ranked sixth among Scottish state secondaries in last year’s Sunday Times list of Britain’s top schools. Exam results for 2014 showed that almost two-thirds of S4 pupils scored at least three Higher passes by the end of S5 – the best performance of any council-run campus in Edinburgh.

It is an example of what can be achieved in the state sector with inspiring teachers and a culture dedicated to learning. Boroughmuir has shown that a state secondary can be up with the best.

However, the prospect of S1 overcrowding at the school – due to move to a new building next year – has sparked concern about the impact on class sizes and on the quality teaching that Boroughmuir has provided. 

Now tough questions will be raised on the city council’s forward planning. A drop-off in parents opting for private schools has been under way for some years as fees have risen remorselessly. So this problem could have been anticipated. And there is a likelihood that 
accommodation pressure is set to increase.

City officials say every catchment pupil will be accommodated and that local placing requests to other high schools would be prioritised to relieve pressure on Boroughmuir. They say the budget has also been raised substantially.

But more money is the solution only up to a point. A drive to emulate Boroughmuir’s success and raise standards at other secondary schools is surely the most effective long-term solution. After all, if Boroughmuir can do it, why not others?