Councillors have been accused of “ripping the heart out of the community” following the news that Castlebrae Community High School is set to close.
The parents of all 200 children at the Craigmiller school, which has suffered from a falling number of pupils and poor results, received a letter yesterday informing them of the council’s plans to consult on closing the school, expected to be approved at a meeting of the education, children and families committee next month.
It has been suggested Castlebrae pupils could be transferred to Liberton, Portobello and Holy Rood High schools.
Honor Flynn, who has two daughters at Castlebrae and is also the chair of the school’s Parents’ Forum, told the Evening News they planned to continue fighting for the school to remain open.
She said: “The parents knew nothing about this until the letter came through the door this morning. I couldn’t believe it, I’m absolutely gutted.
“Obviously we’re going to have to fight against this but you can’t help but get the impression this is a done deal when they’re already talking about bussing our children to other schools.
“Who will buy a house here if there is no school to send their children to? It’s going to be a ghost town. They’re ripping the heart out of this community.”
The school has the lowest roll numbers in the city and is operating at around a third of its capacity. Only 21 pupils started first year last month, with numbers predicted to decline further over the next three years. The estimated cost of maintaining Castlebrae over a 30-year period is £8.7 million – £3.5m would be required over the next five years.
Lyndsay Martin, whose daughter is at Castlebrae, said: “I’m absolutely disgusted. The uncertainty over the school has been going on for years, but now that they’ve had their lowest intake of first years the council are trying to shift the blame on to parents, but what parent is going to send their child to a school constantly under threat?”
Sheila Gilmore, Labour MP for Edinburgh East, said: “This shocking news has come as a real blow to local people, and will be a major worry for local families whose children attend the school. I am extremely disappointed that the decision to consult on the closure of Castlebrae has been taken in isolation from the wider regeneration scheme.”
Green party education spokesperson Melanie Main said: “Castlebrae has faced problems, partly as a result of the uncertainty over its future, but I am dismayed about how little information we have to make a decision which will affect so many young people and the community.”
Labour Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, said the decision would not be “taken lightly” but that “the status quo is not an option”, adding: “Notifying parents is the first step in a long process and I would like to reassure them that full consultation will take place if the report to committee is approved.”