The council’s education committee meets tomorrow to decide its preferred option under the South West Edinburgh Schools Review.
A grassroots campaign has been in full swing for some time with the aim of retaining the current position, namely that all four schools subject to review – Balerno, Currie, Wester Hailes Education Centre and Woodlands – should remain open and continue operating from their current sites.
The council must, first and foremost, place the educational interest of pupils before any other consideration and in doing so will have to listen carefully to stakeholders and professionals alike when determining their position.
I have already written that school closures or rationalisation is probably the most emotive and difficult subject that a local authority has to deal with and the current exercise is proving no exception. Political groups will have wrestled with this issue and contrary views will have been expressed before a conclusion reached. Different viewpoints exist within the groups and colleagues have found themselves on different sides of the argument but that is entirely predictable and welcome, as long as no one loses sight of the desired goal – to improve the education and life chances of current and future pupils.
Political popularity should play no part in councillors’ mindsets as this subject is far too important for future generations to allow it to be sacrificed on the altar of party politics or personal advancement.
The council has been listening – the fact that this informal consultation exercise has taken the time it has bears testimony to that – but it is now time to move the process on.
Tomorrow’s meeting promises to be a hotly-contested affair and many new councillors will be subjected to pressure the likes of which they will not have encountered before but they should be able to withstand this pressure by remembering who and what matters most, and that is the children and the best educational opportunities that can be provided.
After all that is their right, not a privilege, and if councillors can say with a clear conscience that they defended that right then no more can be asked of them!