Primary school catchment areas could be redrawn in Edinburgh
ONE of Scotland’s largest councils is to review the catchment areas of its primary schools amid growing pressure from parents pushing to have their children accepted by the best primaries.
The review is one of a series of measures being looked at by Edinburgh City Council to tackle overcrowding in popular primary schools.
City education leader, councillor Paul Godzik, said Edinburgh would also have to look at building at least one new school and extending existing ones to tackle the problem.
There has been a huge rise in the number of parents being denied out-of-catchment placement requests in Edinburgh, which the council blames on a rising birth rate.
However, last year it emerged that almost a fifth of primary schools in the city were less than 60 per cent occupied, putting them at risk of closure.
Education bosses in the capital have already closed a number of primaries over the past few years, blaming falling school rolls.
Mr Godzik said a working group would look at ways of addressing the problem of overcrowding before reporting back to the council in October.
He said a review of existing catchment areas, which could see further limits put on those looking to get their children into the most popular schools, was one idea under consideration.
He said: “Parents do have the right to ask for an out-of-catchment placement, but we need to manage that. It’s undoubtedly a problem. Given the rising demand, [a review] is something we may have to do in very small circumstances.
“First, we have to look at the school itself to see if we can extend the capacity and change general purpose space into classrooms, but in some limited circumstances we may have to look at that [a catchment review].”
Earlier this year, Edinburgh city council said a record 67 per cent of requests from parents to send their children to schools outwith their own catchment area had been rejected for the start of the coming school year.
Councils across Scotland are struggling to meet demand, with rising pressure on popular schools. .However, the situation has always been acute in the capital, where a small number of schools receive large numbers of requests from those living outside their catchment areas. In Edinburgh, this year’s P1 intake will be 4,408 pupils, compared with 4,097 last year.
“It’s a problem that’s not going to go away,” Mr Godzik said. “We have to recognise that. We will have to look at or identify where we could possibly build a new school, at least one.
“Parents should choose their local primary school – it’s not acceptable to bus children to other parts of the city. It’s a parent’s legal right to make out-of-catchment requests and we can’t change that legislation. I’m hopeful we can look at extensions and some new-builds.”
Currently, the maximum class size for a class with one teacher is 25 in P1, 30 in P2-P3 and 33 in P4-P7. While some parents push to have their children accepted by a school with a better reputation, others make an out-of-catchment request on the basis of geography after finding themselves living closer to a school outside their catchment area.
Should parents have an out-of-catchment request rejected, they are able to appeal the decision with the council. If the appeal fails, then the matter can be taken to the sheriff court. Tina Woolnough, of the National Parent Forum Scotland, said making changes to the catchment areas would not solve the problem of overcrowded schools.
She said: “Some of these issues can’t just be resolved by catchment changes. Parents told the council back in 2007 when they were closing schools that their figures were wrong and there’s a lot of anger still remaining. Parents would be very upset if catchment areas now suddenly changed when they perhaps already had one child in a school with the expectation that a sibling would go there, too.
“People buy their houses with the expectation their children are going to get into a certain school. The council would need a really strong and clear rationale for making the changes.”
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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