Castlebrae High given closure reprieve

Castlebrae High has been spared from closure. Picture: Paul Parke
Castlebrae High has been spared from closure. Picture: Paul Parke
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One of Scotland’s most under-occupied schools has been granted a reprieve from closure after councillors went against education officials to keep it open.

Castlebrae High in Edinburgh - which is just 28 per cent full - was expected to close this summer at the end of the academic year.

Education directors at Edinburgh City Council said the Craigmillar school - which has some of the worst exam results, truancy and exclusion rates in Scotland - recommended closure and decanting pupils into other secondaries.

However, today councillors went against officials’ recommendations to ensure it remains open.

It followed a long-running campaign from parents who had held demonstrations outside the City Chambers, and today pupils themselves addressed city leaders before the vote.

New measures will be considered to improve attendance at Castlebrae, including making the entire school an annex of nearby Portobello High.

Craigmillar, in the south east of the capital, is dogged by unemployment and health problems, and the school currently has just 165 pupils on its roll, including only 17 S1 pupils.

David Walker, a Labour councillor for Craigmillar, said pupils have been let down by poor standards and that as a result many parents in the catchment area had sent their children to nearby Portobello High or Holyrood High.

“We need to investigate why the standard of education at Castlebrae was so poor that people voted with their feet and decided to send their kids somewhere else,” he told the monthly local authority meeting today.

A new school to eventually replace Castlebrae will be built in Craigmillar but not until 2020. Financing for the scheme is dependent on selling off land to developers but the wider regeneration scheme is around four years behind schedule.

Cllr Walker added: “There is no other part of Edinburgh or Scotland where we would have to depend on building big supermarkets high-rises to fund the building of a school.”

Susan Lindsay, from the Save the Brae campaign group, said parents and pupils were pleased with the result.

She told The Scotsman: “Were absolutely delighted. The parents here will be so relieved their kids won’t have to spend half the day on the bus travelling to and from another school outwith this area.

“Now we want the schools to introduce the Curriculum for Excellence programme and for pupils to thrive. And we want the local authority to look at why there is such low attainment and we want to see physical investment in the school.”

Paul Godzik, education leader in the Labour/SNP administration, said councillors had made the right decision.

He said: “We are determined to work in co-operation with the community to deliver a better education for pupils, and will now look at further options to do this. In addition, we have today, yet again, reaffirmed our commitment to the new school and we will work towards delivery as quickly as possible.”