High school is 'harming children's education'

OFFICIALS have warned that the crumbling state of Portobello High is harming pupils' education.

A report carried out by HM Inspectors said the school's poor heating and ventilation was affecting the performance of students. And they also highlighted the problems with unsatisfactory disabled access, the state of the toilets, and bussing children to PE lessons.

The report has added weight to the calls for the Scottish Government to end the uncertainty over Edinburgh's 100 million schools programme. Teachers and parents have been left in limbo after the SNP said last week it would not guarantee funding for five city schools, including Portobello which had been due to be rebuilt.

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In the inspectors' report, which followed a visit to the school in December last year, the standard of the building was given the second-worst rating available.

Former head boy and member of campaign group Portobello For New Schools, Stephen McIntyre, said today: "It was said at the time that in order to get the heating system in the school up to scratch it would take two full-time electricians eight months to do. Bussing the students to PE classes is also an issue, because out of an hour long class, they are getting 20 minutes' exercise, while two-thirds of the period is taken up changing and getting to and from wherever they take the class."

The inspection report, which was published earlier this year, praised staff and pupils for the quality of education and attainment in spite of the surroundings. It also highlighted the lack of clean drinking water for pupils, though the city council has since installed three new water dispensers.

The report, written by inspector David Martin, said: "The school was committed to promoting equality and fairness, however this was not entirely successful. For example, pupils who used wheelchairs did not have full access to the school.

Heating and ventilation in classrooms was difficult to control and this affected pupil performance."

The council had originally hoped work could start within months on rebuilding or refurbishing Portobello High, James Gillespie's High, and Boroughmuir High, as well as St John's Primary in Portobello, and St Crispin's Special School in Blackford.

Chairman of James Gillespie's parent council, Nigel Goddard, said: "I think the quality of the accommodation has a negative affect on two levels. When the pupils get older and go out to other schools they really see the state of disrepair in others, while teachers who have colleagues in other parts of the city are well aware of what they are putting up with in comparison to others."

Meadows/Morningside councillor Alison Johnstone urged both the council and the Scottish Government to sort the situation out.

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The Green politician said: "Until we get funding from central government to address this problem the schools will continue to remain in a condition they should not be in."

Portobello/Craigmillar SNP councillor Michael Bridgeman, a former pupil at Portobello High School and who has one daughter there, admitted the situation was "unacceptable".

"We all know that the school has to be looked at seriously. Pupils who feel they have to go home for the toilet is not something that can continue, but we are working towards a solution."

• You can read the full inspection reports by visiting www. edinburghnews.com.

• You can read the full inspection reports by visiting www.edinburghnews.com.


Portobello (2007):

Some toilets were in need of refurbishment.

• Heating and ventilation in classrooms was difficult to control and this affected pupil performance.

• Time spent travelling to PE facilities had an adverse effect upon pupils' skills development.

• Pupils with mobility problems had limited access to some areas and their changing facilities were unsatisfactory

• Dining facilities uninviting.

James Gillespie's (2002):

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• Current school roll exceeded the original design capacity of the school.

• A number of areas in the school required refurbishment.

• There had been difficulties with the school's heating system and leaks in some roofs.

• There was no suitable access for disabled users.

• The school and education authority should address the accommodation issued identified in this report.

Boroughmuir (2001):

• The school made very good use of the accommodation but many rooms were small and in need of refurbishment

• The heating was inconsistent and some rooms were too cold.

• The accommodation for physical education was unsatisfactory.

• There was a persistent problem with leaks to a flat roof.

• A number of health and safety issues were brought to the attention of the head teacher.