School’s crumbling prefab classes to stay in use

The temporary classrooms at James Gillespie's. Picture Greg Macvean

The temporary classrooms at James Gillespie's. Picture Greg Macvean

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PARENTS at a city primary school have raised concerns about the future of their children’s education after council chiefs said they plan to continue using 16-year-old “temporary” classrooms to cope with rising pupil numbers.

An external unit consisting of two classrooms was installed at James Gillespie’s Primary School on a temporary basis in 2006. Seven years on, the city council said it intends to retain the unit – despite two new classrooms within the school being ready for use from August this year to replace the temporary classrooms.

About 30 pupils are taught in each of the two classes within the external unit, which is in a “poor state of repair”. It requires new windows, guttering, doors and external and internal lighting, with the council understood to be considering a significant investment of up to about £100,000 to upgrade the unit.

Education chiefs said an increase in primary school registrations, which is set to continue over the next decade with a growth of 20 per cent expected by 2020, meant the external unit would still be required.

In a deputation to the council’s education committee on Tuesday, the chair of the school’s parent council, John Beattie, said: “The existing units are 16 years old. We have a teacher who taught in them at a previous school 15 years ago and recognises them not fondly.

“We believe there’s a strong need for a permanent, long-term solution to this issue. We would very much prefer that the units were removed.”

He added: “Parents are concerned that the education provision at the school could suffer if James Gillespie’s Primary School is forced to accommodate additional classes at the school without full consideration of the facilities required.”

Green education spokeswoman Councillor Melanie Main said: “James Gillespie’s Primary parents expected the school would lose 16-year-old ‘temporary’ cabins when the additional classrooms are added to the school this year. It beggars belief that current works planned will not be sufficient to accommodate the rising roll and that these units will remain.

“The problems accommodating P1 pupils at Gillespie’s this coming August highlight an ever growing problem in south Edinburgh.

“South Morningside School is currently running with three classes in each year in a school built for only two classes in a year. Bruntsfield Primary is also set to become a three stream school. This is not a new problem. We have known for years that a long-term solution to rising school rolls is needed in south Edinburgh.”

The city council underlined that work on a new gym and nursery at James Gillespie’s Primary started this week.

The city’s education leader, Councillor Paul Godzik, said the council was looking very closely at the need for a new school in the south of ­Edinburgh.

He added: “We will have to keep the external unit at James Gillespie’s Primary because there’s a really significant spike in catchment demand for the area.

“Rising rolls is affecting communities right across the city.”

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