Rising school rolls is an issue being faced by a number of local authorities both in Scotland and across the UK.
Here in Edinburgh it is undoubtedly a challenge dealing with the complexity of an increased birth rate, significant new housing developments, increased entitlements in early years, and the demographic shifts within local communities.
Over the last few years the Capital Coalition has provided significant investment to deal with rising rolls in our primary schools. In doing so we’ve provided parents with certainty that space will be available in their local catchment school.
At the same time we’ve fully funded the “Wave 3” schools programme, with work well under way at James Gillespie’s High School, and diggers about to move in at both Boroughmuir and Portobello. We’ve also started the process of identifying possible “Wave 4” schools, focusing on secondary schools which have not had any significant investment in the last 15 years and primary schools with a condition ‘C’ rating.
I fully recognise that there is much further work to do on condition, and I know all councillors will look hard at our budget as we move toward setting it in February 2015.
In early years we’ve delivered a new nursery at James Gillespie’s, extended Kirkliston Nursery, and have plans to replace dilapidated nursery buildings at Granton Early Years Centre as well as Corstorphine, Longstone, Davidson’s Mains and Duddingston primary schools.
Yet it is obvious that the bulge in primary rolls will eventually impact on the secondary sector. The latest analysis suggests that existing capacity in the secondary estate will be sufficient to meet demand for the remainder of this decade. So, while it is premature to outline detailed plans we are starting to look at possible solutions now. Parental engagement and consultation would of course be paramount.
However, much more importantly, a city-wide assessment of capacity across the entire secondary school estate is underway and a draft updated Asset Management Plan will be presented to the Education Children & Families Committee later this year.
When this plan is complete it will outline a full assessment of all anticipated changes which may be required in the Children and Families estate (nursery, primary, secondary and other services). But looking across our 88 primary schools, 23 secondary schools, nurseries, community centres, young people’s centres, and various other establishments is a significant piece of work.
Calling for a plan is easy, but producing the right plan takes time, hard work and needs consultation and discussion.
Councillor Paul Godzik is the education leader at Edinburgh City Council