Edinburgh planning: Muslim primary school plans for up to 100 pupils at former Saughton Prison governor's house

Plans submitted to turn the ‘Big White House’ in Calder Road into a Muslim school
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Plans have been submitted to turn the old governor’s house at HMP Edinburgh, formerly Saughton Prison, into a Muslim primary school for up to 100 pupils to accommodate Edinburgh’s growing Muslim population.

Known by locals as the Big White House, the proposal is to convert the building at 21 Calder Road into a primary school for 75-100 children, with new vehicle access. Planning was already refused once but a new application by Edinburgh-based charity The World Care Foundation was submitted earlier this month. The building was being used as an office by the Scottish Prison Service but was bought by the World Care Foundation last summer after an extensive search in the city to find the right building for what is believed to be the first ever charity-run Muslim school.

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In its business plan statement for an ‘EDEN Community and Education Hub’, The World Care Foundation said: “The aim of the project is to open a community building hosting a private day school Mondays to Fridays, 8.30am-4.15pm. The intention of the project is to open a Muslim primary school, to facilitate the national curriculum for excellence in a way and environment sensitive to the culture and heritage of the pupils and their families. It will foster an ideology of inclusiveness and community while preserving individual identity and self-worth in the children.

The former prison governor's house at Saughton Prison (HMP Edinburgh).The former prison governor's house at Saughton Prison (HMP Edinburgh).
The former prison governor's house at Saughton Prison (HMP Edinburgh).

"The Muslim population had risen from 11,000 to 14,000 between 2011 and 2018 and this is a trend set to rise. The city has other faith schools but none for the expanding Muslim population. In our market research we discovered a significant desire to establish a Muslim school but also the desire to have it teach the standard curriculum of Scotland. In the future once this project is established, we would be potentially looking to open up a secondary school in an alternative location, to complement the junior school.”

The organisation said the school’s education services will be available to all, including non-Muslim children. Giving more details about the plans, The World Care Foundation said: “The planning application also includes the creation of an off-road drop-off/pick-up zone on the east side of the property to remove the need for waiting on the local road network and ensuring safety for the children coming to and from the site.

"The building will be made available to the general community after school and at weekends as per usual with state-run schools. Any evening or weekend usage will end at 8pm at the latest. The intention is to make the facility available for meetings and small classes to the local community in the evening and weekends if desired and appropriate.

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“The facility will be funded primarily by the monthly fees paid to the school and any additional income generated from room hire. Additional funds may be generated via fundraising initiatives by a parents and teachers association etc.”

The planning application also includes supporting statements from parents of Muslim children keen to see the plans approved. Residents from surrounding housing developments have already raised concerns about the junction into Calder Road and the lack of parking facilities which would have a knock-on effect to the neighbouring residential developments. Comments are open on the planning application until April 1.