Parents snub city primary schools

MORE than one-third of city parents are snubbing their local primary school and seeking to place their children elsewhere, figures released today reveal.

Some 35 per cent of children going into primary one in 2003-4 were the subject of placing requests in the city - the highest rate in the country.

Teaching leaders today urged parents to show more faith in their local school, while the city’s education leader said schools were being unfairly damaged by bad reputations.

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Almost one in four - 23 per cent - of children going into their first year of secondary school were also the subject of placing requests in Edinburgh, the third-highest rate in the country.

The average figure for primary school requests across Scotland is 23 per cent while for secondary requests it is just 13 per cent.

Eleanor Conor, a spokeswoman for the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, today called on more parents to give their local schools a chance.

"If parents hear that the school down the road has a far better reputation then they tend to put in placing requests.

"What we argue is that it is far better that parents think about keeping loyal to their local school, if possible.

"Instead of hurrying to leave it, they should be supporting it and getting involved in improving it."

City education leader Ewan Aitken, who is also education spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, said: "I would always encourage parents to use their local school, that seems to me to be quite fundamental, but the existing legislation allows them to make a choice.

"There can be various reasons why a placing request is made, such as geography or whether a school is on a route to work.

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"Unfortunately, it can be down to a school’s reputation, and this can often be completely misguided and can take a generation to turn around.

"There can be a school down the road that is offering a high-quality education, yet the staff are being demoralised by its reputation."

The city council granted 1329 of the 1796 placing requests it received over primary one pupils, while 653 of the 1179 placing requests for pupils heading into their first year of secondary school were successful.

Across the country, councils were able to meet 18,144 of the 20,005 placing requests for primary one, while 8525 of the placing requests for first-year secondary pupils succeeded.

The Scottish Executive denied that placing requests were simply the result of parents being unhappy with their local school.

It insisted that other reasons for requests include religion, keeping siblings together and proximity to the family home, even if it is in a different local authority area.

A spokeswoman said: "There are many reasons why parents opt for a placing request.

"We support the right to exercise choice and the figures show that the vast majority get the school that they want."

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Jim Lowrie, Liberal Democrat education spokesman on the city council, said many city schools were suffering from having a poor reputation.

"The way the housing is arranged we tend to have certain schools which become unpopular over the years and parents will not want their children to go to," he added.