Members of the City of Edinburgh Council’s Education, Children and Families Committee defeated the administration’s proposal to push ahead with plans to demolish Currie High School and Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC) and create a new ‘super school’.
Emotions ran high as parents and councillors gave passionate speeches in favour of a range of views. Option one of the four proposals will now go forward to a formal consultation on the future of schools.
Greens, Liberal Democrats and Conservative councillors had brought their own amendments, all calling for the schools to retain their own identities. But Green Cllr Mary Campbell handed Education Convener Cllr Ian Perry a combined motion from all opposition groups, which was agreed.
Cllr Campbell said: “There’s a lot of concern about stigma of Wester Hailes.
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“We don’t build an area up by tearing its school down.”
When the Save our Schools campaign was launched, there was talk of maintaining the status quo – but there was a consensus from all sides of the debate that things had to change.
Cllr Susan Webber, a former Currie High School pupil, said: “It’s not a vote for the status quo, it’s a vote for change.
“Having education at the heart of the community lets the community thrive.”
Parents spoke out about pupils’ sleepless nights while the decision to potentially close schools was hanging over their heads – the third time WHEC youngsters had gone through the process.
Cllr Jo Mowat said: “These people are fighting for their schools because they love them.
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“That’s the positive we have to take out of this.”
But Cllr Perry stuck by his guns and put his views forward in support of merging the two high schools – stating he was “unconvinced” about overhauling both schools.
He said: “The main argument for rebuilding WHEC – from those who support the status quo, is that it is a local school that serves the local community. But over 60 per cent of school age children in Wester Hailes are educated in schools outside the WHEC catchment. That equates to over 393 families who do not support their local school.
“Evidence suggests quite clearly that less able pupils have better attainment in schools with a social mix.”
Cllr Mandy Watt described the merger plans as “an unprecedented opportunity to bring communities together” and labelled the decision as “deeply disappointing”.
Members of Clovenstone and Canal View parent councils argued against a merger.
Despite facing a chorus of heckles from other parent council speakers, Aisling Ashley McNeil from Canal View Primary Parent Council said it would be “the most stable option for our children”.
She said “children should be able to go to school and not be interrupted” and added that the council should be “siding with views coming from a less deprived area”.
Kirsty Cumming from Juniper Green Parent Council has been a leading member of the campaign.
She said: “The vast majority of parents’ views are to invest in these schools.
“Don’t risk damaging the health and well-being of the most vulnerable pupils.”