Edinburgh finds £10m to boost capacity in schools

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EDUCATION chiefs have revealed how they will target £10.5 million of new money to boost capacity at primary schools and nurseries across the Capital.

Council leaders said building more classroom space to accommodate rapidly growing school rolls would be the “key priority”, with existing funding of £7m set to be doubled. New nursery facilities are to be created at Wardie and Duddingston primary schools, with Blackhall Primary also in line for a replacement gym hall.

Education leader Paul Godzik said: “We’re expecting a 20 per cent rise in P1 intake over the next seven years and ensuring we have sufficient capacity to deal with that is an absolute priority.”

Although there are 5000 spare places in the Capital’s primary estate, council leaders admitted these were not in the right areas to meet demand, meaning a substantial investment in new accommodation would be necessary. Planning permission for extra teaching space at Trinity, Granton and Wardie primary schools has already been granted, with temporary classrooms at Blackhall and James Gillespie’s also due to be refurbished.

Education bosses said under-pressure nurseries at Granton, Holy Cross, Flora Stevenson and Stockbridge primaries would be helped through opening a brand new early-years facility at Wardie Primary, with dilapidated facilities at Duddingston Primary set to be replaced and expanded thanks to spending of £1m.

“Parents expect to be able to get their kids into the local school and that’s why we are making these investments a priority,” said Councillor Godzik.

“The other priority is in the early years estate – raising the standard in terms of nursery accommodation and ensuring we can meet future demand.

“But we also realise we have to make a fuller assessment of the school estate and where future demand is likely to be – and we’ve set up a cross-party working group to do just that.”

Confirmation of additional spending has been welcomed by parents and opposition councillors but they said a proper plan for managing schools investment would be needed. Carole Fisher, chair of Duddingston Primary parent council, said: “The new nursery is something we’ve been desperately in need of and it will be welcomed by the whole school as well as future generations.

“But I’d say there needs to be more planning and the council needs to become more aware of what’s needed at individual schools in the city.”

Green councillor Gavin Corbett, a member of the city’s education committee, said: “Having closed seven primary schools in the last five years, the council now finds itself having to find over £14m to cope with rising school rolls.

“And that’s in the context of a report which spells out starkly just how much investment our schools and nurseries need and in advance of a suite of school condition surveys that are certainly going to swell the bill.

“The city has many fantastic schools and we need to make sure we finish the job of providing facilities that young people deserve. We need a long-term plan for the school estate to deliver that.”

First new primary since 1970s

DETAILS of new investment in the school estate comes after the News revealed last week that Edinburgh is to build its first new primary school since the 1970s.

The council will spend £10 million on the new school for the south of the city where classrooms are bursting at the seams and scores of pupils are having to be taught in school halls and crumbling prefabs.

It is expected to be built on the Astley Ainslie hospital site if a deal can be struck with NHS Lothian to acquire the land.