£27m Craigmillar school plans hit funding problems

BLUEPRINTS for a £27 million high school have been unveiled – amid fears it will not be built by an agreed deadline.

The new school will replace Castlebrae. Picture: Paul Parke

The new school in Craigmillar would have space for 600 pupils, as well as a £2m suite of dedicated classrooms aimed at turning the area – one of the Capital’s poorest – into a “city-wide centre of scientific excellence”.

And it could eventually expand to accommodate up to 1200 children as families are drawn by new housing developments.

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The campus would replace Castlebrae Community High, which last year narrowly escaped closure over plunging rolls and poor exam results.

A site of around 4.2 hectares – located close to the existing community library and with an entrance at Niddrie Mains Road – has been earmarked in revised masterplans which will guide the wider transformation of Craigmillar.

But question marks have emerged over whether the new school will be built by August 2020 – the date given when proposals to close Castlebrae were unveiled.

Education leaders said the decision to keep the school open meant there would be enough classrooms to meet projected demand over the coming years and that time-scales for a replacement would hinge on the availability of money.

And with potential sources of funding expected to yield no more than £9m, they have admitted they face a deficit of at least £18m.

Growing uncertainty has sparked concern among parent leaders at the 900-capacity Castlebrae, which currently has a roll of around 130. They said city leaders had pledged to build a new campus by 2020 after scrapping plans to close the school and urged them to make good on their commitment.

Susan Heron, vice-chair of the school’s parent council, said: “The people of Craigmillar were promised that there would be a new school by August 2020 – the community will not be interested where the money comes from, they were promised a school and they want that promise fulfilled.

“The new capacity [is] brilliant, and forward thinking considering the regeneration. That was exactly why we campaigned for the school – it’s needed in this growing area.”

She added: “The science centre is exactly what we wanted given we are a stone’s throw from the new Bioquarter site.”

City chiefs, who set aside nearly £620,000 to cover early design costs for the new school, said they would do everything possible to fund construction.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Building a new school always depends on the required funding being available.

“The Capital Coalition are working very hard through the budget process to ensure that maximum funds available are invested to tackle historic under-investment and provide Edinburgh with the best estate possible.”