MORE than £40 million is set to be spent building new schools, boosting nursery places, and supporting children with additional needs.
The money has been allocated to the children and families budget over the next five years, £10.5m of which will be used to replace crumbling nurseries, extend primary schools to accommodate increasing pupil numbers and replace small gym halls at three city primary schools.
More than £600,000 will be spent in 2017/18 to fund early stage design works for a new secondary school in Craigmillar, with education chiefs also looking at the possibility of building a new school in the south of the city at a cost of around £10m, although funding has not yet been identified for the new build.
The Wave 3 school replacement programme is set to be completed, with £7m going towards replacing St John’s RC Primary School over the next five years, and more than £6m allocated for a replacement St Crispin’s Special School.
However, the Greens have called on more funding for basic refurbishment work in schools and improvements to playgrounds.
Education chiefs estimate that the Primary One roll at city schools will increase by around 20 per cent by 2020 and as a result, between £4 and £7m has been set aside to accommodate the rise in pupils.
There are particular accommodation problems in the south of the city, from Preston Street to South Morningside primaries, and extensions are being considered for some schools.
The city’s education leader, Councillor Paul Godzik, said: “We will have to do a great deal of work in meeting catchment demand and ensuring that every pupil has a place in their catchment school. That is going to be a real challenge right across the estate.”
Other areas of new investment include £3m on primary school gym hall replacements at Blackhall, East Craigs and Cramond primaries. The trio of schools have each got rolls of around 400 pupils but each rely on a single gym hall – which they double up to use for PE lessons and meals.
Blackhall has got the smallest dining hall out of the three schools, which is almost half the size of a standard gym hall. Between £800,000 and £1m has been identified for each gym replacement.
Meanwhile, £725,000 will be invested to support children with additional support needs in 2013/14, with a further investment of more than £7m over the following four years.
Gavin Corbett, a Green councillor on the education committee, said: “We would like to see more money going into some of the basics of refurbishment, particularly where schools are shelling out thousands of pounds needlessly on antiquated heating systems which are making uncomfortable conditions for children and staff and wasting lots of money.
“We also want to explore what we can do to help enhance school playgrounds.”
The delay in building a new Portobello High School also means more money – more than £2m – will have to be spent on maintaining the current school building, with the funding likely to come from the asset management budget.
The children and families funding is set to be approved at a budget meeting next Thursday, with a report being prepared by council officers recommending which particular areas the money should be spent on. Councillors on the education committee will then be asked to approve the more detailed proposals at a meeting in March.
More foster carers on way
Money has also been set aside in the children and families budget to increase the number of council foster carers across the Capital.
Almost £9 million will be invested over the next five years to provide an additional 25 council foster carers per year – a total of 125 extra by 2018.
Education chiefs said council foster carers cost around £20,000 less than those provided by other agencies.
Education leader Councillor Paul Godzik, said: “The savings over a number of years are really quite substantial.”
Tory education spokesman Councillor Jason Rust raised concerns the council plans to reduce residential care for ”monetary reasons”.
Investment in nurseries
Improving nursery provision across the city is a key possible area of investment.
Around £650,000 to £1 million could be spent on nurseries highlighted as being in need of funding. Among those under consideration is Duddingston Nursery, which is in a poor condition. Work would likely include a replacement and extension, allowing it to accept an extra 20 children in the morning and afternoon.
Longstone Nursery is being considered for replacement, with new nurseries at Fox Covert and Wardie Primary also a possibility.