School closures: Parents threaten boycott of plans to move pupils

PARENTS at one of the city secondaries shut down over safety fears are threatening to boycott council plans to send their youngsters to a school on the other side of the city.

Saturday, 16th April 2016, 9:25 am
Updated Saturday, 16th April 2016, 9:49 am
St Peters Primary pupils get on a bus to travel to alternative schools. Picture: Julie Bull

Alternative arrangements have now been announced for all 7700 pupils affected by the 17 school closures – including some pupils being taught in university accommodation.

But concerns are growing that time taken out of the school day because of the need to travel could mean some children losing around 55 hours of education if buildings have to stay closed until the summer.

Parents at Gracemount High School are angry that the plans involve their S1-S3 students being taken by coach all the way to Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC) every day.

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Gracemount’s S4-S6 pupils have already been relocated to Liberton High.

One member of the parent council said: “We realise the council has had to act swiftly in this unprecedented situation, but it’s the wrong decision they are taking. This solution is not viable in the long term.

“Gracemount is being split in two. The teaching staff have been amazing, but teachers can’t be split in two.

“Quite rightly, they have prioritised the pupils with exams, but it means children are not all being taught by their own teachers.”

She said parents wanted the whole school to be kept together and suggested all Gracemount pupils could move to Castlebrae. Temporary cabins could be brought in or offers of university accommodation taken up, she added.

And she warned many parents were not willing to send their children to Wester Hailes.

“It’s not the fact it’s Wester Hailes, it’s about the logistics and the impact on teaching,” she said.

“The plan seems to be pupils would be picked up at 9am for a 9.30am start at WHEC, then leave to come back at 2.50pm to get them back for collection, so already the school day is shortening.

“If that was just for a week that wouldn’t matter, but you can’t operate like that in the long term. My husband and I have decided we will probably not be sending our son, but it’s down to what he wants.”

Another mother, whose son is in S2 at Gracemount, said: “I’m very angry. I’m not allowing my son to be bussed five miles across the city every day. It’s ridiculous taking them so far. There’s Castlebrae down the road which is under-occupied and the university has offered accommodation at King’s Buildings, which isn’t far.”

Amanda Campbell, chairwoman of the WHEC parent council, said she was going to write to her counterparts at Gracemount to invite them to their next meeting after negative comments appeared on social media.

“We just want them to feel welcome,” she said. “We all want the best for our kids and we have to work together.”

Conservative councillor Jason Rust said parents were worried how much time would be lost due to the closures.

He said: “An hour’s travelling time each day means five hours a week and 55 hours from now until the summer. That’s a lot of lost education.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Following discussions and risk assessments with headteachers, we decided that whenever possible we should place pupils in other schools which are well equipped for their needs. Wester Hailes Education Centre is another secondary school in the city and is the most suitable choice to ensure continuity of the pupils’ education.”