Parents to petition Holyrood

PARENTS of pupils who have been told there is no money to repair their crumbling schools are set to take their protest to the Scottish Parliament.

The parents are discussing plans for a massive petition to demand action on the five schools which desperately need rebuilt or refurbished.

The petition is likely to be presented to the Scottish Parliament's public petitions committee and the city council.

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Campaigners have also threatened to target Kenny MacAskill's narrow majority in Edinburgh East and Musselburgh to increase pressure on the Government.

Labour city councillor Paul Godzik, whose Meadows/Morningside ward covers Boroughmuir and James Gillespie's high schools, predicted there would be massive support for a petition.

He said: "A petition would help emphasise the strength of feeling which surrounds this issue.

"In the past, petitions which have collected thousands of names have made a tremendous difference.

"Children cannot continue to be educated in schools like this. Something has to be done.

"Having spoken to teachers and pupils, great numbers would support this. I think James Gillespie's is a terrific school with a high standard of education but there comes a point when you have to rebuild."

Parents' committees at the schools are expected to discuss a joint petition, or a series of separate ones, in the coming days.

The five schools - Boroughmuir, James Gillespie's and Portobello highs, St John's Primary in Portobello and St Crispin's Special School in Blackford- were expected to be rebuilt or refurbished under 100 million plans drawn up by the previous Labour administrations at the city council and the Scottish Executive.

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But the schools have been told by the new SNP Government that there is no guarantee they will get the money.

The work had been expected to be funded through a PFI deal, but the SNP is set against them, believing them to be fundamentally flawed and an expensive drain on the public purse.

However, its idea for replacing them, the Scottish Futures Trust, has yet to be put in place, leaving the schools in limbo.

Labour accused the SNP of breaking a commitment to match the old Executive's school building plans "brick for brick". The SNP, however, has produced a letter showing no firm commitment had been made.

Polly Purvis, chairwoman of Boroughmuir High School Board, said the board would be discussing the petition plan at its next meeting.

She said: "Until we've met as a board we can't say what will definitely happen.

"We are clearly keen to see the government and council working together because these schools have already been condemned."

Stephen McIntyre, a member of Portobello for New Schools action group, said he was convinced a collective petition was the best way forward.

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"We've all got the same concerns," he said. "One aspect we are looking to press though [for Portobello] is to target local MSP Kenny MacAskill. He's got a majority here of 1400 and that's the same number of pupils that are in this school. We will be calling him to a public meeting along with the local councillors."

Richard Dietrich, chairman of James Gillespie's parent committee, said parents would be discussing the petition idea. "It is certainly something we will consider," he said.