‘It comes across as a bit mad that we are opening a school that does not have enough space in it”.
It’s impossible to argue with the blunt assessment of the city’s education leader Cammy Day. There are serious problems when we can’t build new schools fast enough to keep up with Edinburgh’s fast-growing population.
Who’s to blame for this worrying state of affairs?
Questions certainly have to be asked about the population forecasts used for building the new Boroughmuir and James Gillespie’s high schools. But the council is far from alone in being so wide of the mark with this inexact science. Just look at the shortage of beds at the Royal Infirmary.
The real issue is the underlying problems caused by the city’s mushrooming population. There are, of course, many good things about being a place where people want to live – the opposite problem is far worse. But unless the city is able to plan and provide for all these extra people then it will be the ruin of Edinburgh.
The city has shown a willingness to grasp the nettle by ordering initial work to begin on building an overspill annexe for a high school that hasn’t even been completed yet. That is the right thing to do.
The biggest problem is that this is not a one-off. Quite the opposite. The cash-strapped city council needs around £250 million to provide enough new classrooms for our children.
How will it do that at a time when it is already having to cut local services? No one knows.
The City Deal with its promise of billions of pounds for infrastructure should help. But there are still concerns this won’t be enough.
One way or another the city needs the power and resources to tackle the huge challenges, whether that is more funds from the Scottish and UK governments or new tax raising powers for the city. The alternative is leaving the next generation in the lurch.