City education officials school is failing pupils and should be closed down

Castlebrae High School
Castlebrae High School
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CASTLEBRAE Community High School is set to close its doors after claims it is “failing the future” of pupils following poor exam results and a falling school roll.

It is anticipated that the 200 pupils at the Craigmillar school will transfer to Liberton, Portobello and Holy Rood High schools – which each have space to accommodate additional pupils – following the proposed closure next summer.

News of the proposal came as the city council provided a guarantee that no other school closures – primary or secondary – will take place in the Capital between now and the next council elections in May 2017.

There will be a full consultation on the proposed closure of Castlebrae, which has suffered from a falling number of pupils and poor results. Educational attainment at Castlebrae – which is the main reason behind its proposed closure – has fallen consistently over the years, with the majority of parents in the area already choosing to send their children to other schools.

As a result, the current roll at Castlebrae Community High School is the lowest in the city and just a third of its 600-pupil capacity. The school roll is expected to decline further over the next few years, dropping to a low of 158 pupils in 2015 –just 26 per cent of its capacity.

A senior council source said: “We need to lance the boil. If we kept it [Castlebrae] open, it would be failing a whole future cohort of children.”

The estimated cost of maintaining Castlebrae over a 30-year period is £8.7 million, of which £3.5m would be required over the next five years. In addition, the cost per pupil for 2012/13 is expected to be more than twice the city average – £10,418 per pupil compared with £4757 for other schools – further adding to the financial implications of keeping the school open.

The school, which opened in the seventies, attracts only 31 per cent of pupils within its catchment area and just 21 pupils started first year last month.

Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, stressed that the council was still committed to building a new high school in the area.

He added: “We have a commitment to provide our children with the best possible start in life. As things stand, Castlebrae Community High School is not able to offer a full curriculum and is achieving very poor educational outcomes. Many local parents already choose to send their children to other schools, and for this reason officers are recommending to consult on the future of the school.”

One of the first moves by the previous Lib Dem-led administration was to embark on a series of school closures to deal with budget cuts, but they were forced into a major U-turn after their SNP coalition partners refused to back them.

Plans for school closures included three secondaries – Drummond, Castlebrae and Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC), where this year pupils achieved the best Standard Grade exam results in the school’s history.

WHEC’s results are in stark contrast to those of Castlebrae, where pupils are consistently falling below the city-wide 
figures for Standard Grade and Higher results.

Castlebrae Community High School has been compared with 20 other schools within comparable areas across Scotland.

Educational outcomes for pupils at the school are, and have been, significantly poorer than those for all, or the majority of, the 20 other schools. Castlebrae pupils’ performance in this year’s exams were also far lower than that achieved by pupils at Portobello, Liberton and Holy Rood High.

Parents with children attending Castlebrae Community High School were to receive letters today informing them of the council’s plans for closure, which are expected to be approved at a meeting of the education, children and families committee next month.

A report to the committee will explain the position at the school and the current issues, and will seek approval to consult on an option to close the school at the end of the 2012/13 school year. If approved, a full consultation process with parents and the wider community would start on October 25 and run until early December.

Following this, Education Scotland would consider the outcomes of the consultation process and a report with final recommendations would be taken to the full council in March next year for a decision on the way forward.

Councillor Godzik added: “We want all our young people to have the opportunities to learn, thrive and reach their full potential. It is our duty to make sure that every child gets the education and support that they need to do this.

“The discussions do not directly affect the council’s long-term aspiration to build a new high school in the area. We are still committed to this. Further regeneration will bring more new housing and more families for which a new, modern, fully-functional school will be necessary once the pupil numbers in the area rise to a level that requires it.”

Cllr Godzik added that the council’s pledge not to close any other schools in the city during the current Labour/SNP administration’s lifetime follows an increase in birth rates, with primary schools which currently have low rolls seeing their numbers increase over the next few years.