Leader: ‘The rules need to be clear and be enforced’

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TAKING your first steps into primary school is a stressful time for both parents and children. But in Edinburgh the process can be even more complicated.

The pressure on P1 places at many Edinburgh schools in now intense as a result of soaring rolls coupled with school closures in the past. Indeed, education chiefs are expecting a further 20 per cent rise over the next seven years.

So although there are around 5000 spare places in the Capital’s primary estate, council leaders have admitted these are not in the right areas to meet demand.

Understandably many parents make requests to put their children in primaries outside of the area they live in, so-called “out-of-catchment requests”.

But the decision on which applications succeed and how this is communicated to parents is not always clear to those involved.

Our story today highlights another example of how mums and dads are being left bewildered.

A five-year-old seeking access to Pentland Primary has been rejected even though the projected intake for August is 66 – nine short of the Scottish Government maximum. The school insists that it cannot accept 75 pupils as by the time this cohort reach Primary Four, they will not have the capacity to accommodate them all.

The situation is further complicated by parents who have appealed a P1 rejection. Those pupils who succeed are not actually placed on the official P1 school roll, leading to the informal tag of “ghost children”.

It is obvious to everyone involved that the rules need to be clear and need to be enforced. A major review of how the entire system operates, led by the Scottish Government, needs to happen.

In the short term the city council has committed £10.5 million for temporary classrooms at the most popular schools, but this is just a sticking plaster solution. The redrawing of catchment areas must also be on the agenda.