HERITAGE watchdog the Cockburn Association has slammed the council’s plans to add extensions to four city primary schools.
It expressed “dismay” at the approach taken by council chiefs to fluctuating school rolls, and urged the local authority to address why certain schools were more popular with parents than others.
The comments were made in a letter to the council’s planning department by director of the Cockburn Association Marion Williams, below. She also said the “generous” budget for the new classrooms at Trinity, Wardie, Granton and Victoria primary schools was not reflected in the quality, adding that they were a short-term solution to a wider problem.
Earlier this month, the Evening News told how education chiefs had been accused by architect David Jamieson, 45, who is a member of Wardie Primary’s parent-teacher council, of trying to rush through extensions to the four schools by building them against government guidelines.
If the project is approved by the planning committee next month, the new classrooms are set to be ready for use in August.
The Cockburn Association believes the new facilities will appear to most people as a 21st century version of temporary huts which are found across city schools and “provide classrooms that are well-lit”.
However, the proposed classrooms are not generously provided with natural light and will need permanent artificial lighting, the association said.
Ms Williams even suggested that a new primary in the north of Edinburgh on the proposed budget of £2200 per sq metre may be a “far more wise” option.
“The city has a fine history of school building by the Edinburgh School Board from 1870 onwards, and their quality is a standard we should return to in the 21st century,” she said.
Ms Williams added extending Victoria Primary would be a “better outcome all round”.
However, the city’s education leader, Councillor Paul Godzik, said the council had to tackle a huge rise in pupil numbers “in the context of a budget which is reducing year-on-year”, while also ensuring existing schools are maintained.
The council also said that, in most cases, the class size would be larger than the existing classrooms currently provided in the four schools, with the new classrooms – which will not be windowless – offering plenty of natural light.
Cllr Godzik added: “There is no simple fix to the issue of increasing school rolls, which is by no means limited to the four schools where these extensions are proposed.
“The fact is the majority of our primaries are seeing a significant increase in school rolls, the pressure is widespread, and over the years to 2020 we estimate that the P1 roll will increase by about 20 per cent.”
These five pass the test
FIVE examples of fine school buildings in Edinburgh, according to the Cockburn Association:
• Sciennes Primary by Robert Wilson, 1889. Neo-Jacobean school providing bright, airy classrooms.
• Prestonfield Primary by Bernard Widows, 1929. Queen Anne-style architecture, the classrooms surround a courtyard garden and once opened off open-air corridors.
• Castlebrae High School (Junior) by Reid & Forbes, 1937. No longer in use as a school but built in the striking international modern style with art deco details.
• Harmeny School, Arts and Crafts style villa with a crescent of bright classrooms added by Richard Murphy Architects in 1996.
• Juniper Green Primary by Elder & Cannon, 2009. A recent example of a bespoke school, with well-lit classrooms on a gentle curve and with internal courtyard gardens.