Castlebrae's future is deemed 'unsustainable'

5th October 2012 at 01:00
Council's plan to close, not merge, an urban secondary angers campaigners

The closure of Edinburgh's Castlebrae Community High has moved a step closer after a council report described the school's future as "unsustainable".

The rare decision to close an urban secondary - mergers are more common - has angered campaigners and EIS officials, who counter that the Craigmillar school's falling roll is a result of the long-known threat of closure.

Council officials cite "very poor educational outcomes" and "by far the lowest roll of the city" - 200 and projected to fall to 158 by 2015 - but say Craigmillar will get a new secondary at some point.

They expect the closure to save pound;1.3 million a year. The cost per pupil per year is pound;10,418, compared with an average of pound;4,757 across city secondaries.

Less than a third of pupils in the catchment area attend the school; 44 per cent of those who do have additional support needs, compared with 14 and 12 per cent respectively at Drummond and Craigroyston community highs.

But even against 20 comparator schools, mostly from Glasgow, the council describes educational outcomes as "consistently, significantly poorer" than most, if not all, other schools.

One area praised in the report, written by children and families director Gillian Tee, is vocational education.

But the council doubts the school's prospects of delivering Curriculum for Excellence. The small S1-3 roll - 21 pupils entered S1 in August - "creates difficulty in providing the broad general education" envisaged in CfE, with personalisation and choice "severely limited".

The report states that neighbouring schools are comprehensive in that, unlike Castlebrae, they draw from a broad range of socio-economic backgrounds.

In his TESS column this week, former Edinburgh head Alex Wood said that, while the situation should not have reached this point, closure was the right move as Castlebrae could not provide a "genuine comprehensive experience".

Johnni Stanton, of the Save the Brae campaign, told TESS that low rolls were a result of the threat of closure hanging over the school for several years, and the council's reluctance to invest in it.

He accused the council of neglecting to mention hundreds of adult learners who use the school, and several dozen pupils from other schools who come each week for vocational education.

The campaign has warned that it will make the long-running, fractious dispute over a new Portobello High "look like a walk in the park".

The consultation will start on 25 October, subject to approval by the education, children and families committee.

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