Comment: This is a monumental miscalculation

PARENTS should be cheered by Nicola Sturgeon's decisive start to her first full term as First Minister.

Thursday, 19th May 2016, 11:54 am
Updated Thursday, 19th May 2016, 12:57 pm
The new teaching block at James Gillespie's High School. Picture: Greg Macvean
The new teaching block at James Gillespie's High School. Picture: Greg Macvean

Putting John Swinney, a former party leader and the SNP’s surest performer at Holyrood behind only the First Minister herself, in charge of education looks like a real statement of intent.

There is a big job to do when it comes to driving up standards in classrooms to ensure that all our children get the best possible start in life irrespective of what neighbourhood they live in. But Mr Swinney’s track record suggests he is a man that can get results.

In the context of improving exam results and basic literacy and numeracy skills for children across Scotland, the capacity problems facing James Gillespie’s and Boroughmuir seem like a little local difficulty.

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The fact that the two brand new high schools, built at a combined cost of £80m, will be bursting at the seams – with more than 150 pupils over and above the highest number they were designed to accommodate by 2020 – is a severe embarrassment to the council.

There is no denying that forecasting how populations might change over time is a tricky business, influenced by such wide ranging factors as what kind of housing is built in the neighbourhood, where families choose to live and what schools they choose to send their children too. It is also true that designing and building a new schools doesn’t happen overnight so the estimates these two schools were based on had to be drawn up a few years ago.

Nevertheless building two new schools that will essentially not be fit for purpose within four years is a monumental miscalculation.

It is not of course only the council that seem incapable of making these forecasts with any degree of reliability. The NHS has an equally indistinguished record, as shown by the capacity issues at the Royal Infirmary.

Perhaps the Scottish Government needs to order a review of how this important science is conducted across the country, or we will end up doomed to endlessly repeat these problems with our public buildings.