Sheila Gilmore MP & Kezia Dugdale MSP said:
The Children & Families Committee will be discussing a report on 9th October 2012 which recommends the start of a consultation on the closure of Castlebrae High School. Having read this report we are concerned that it does not provide a fully rounded view of the role of this Community High School in its community or fully reflect its strengths.
We also think that the report does not explain sufficiently the capacity of other schools in the area to cope with the changes required. Capacity is largely looked at in terms of raw numbers, whereas we believe a wider range of issues need to be considered.
If the Committee decides to open a consultation process on 9th October, we would urge any such consultation to cover and consult on the widest range of issues. We are concerned that formal consultations are sometimes too narrow in their scope and are firmly of the view that any consultation regarding the future of Castlebrae should consider the issues outlined below, in addition to those raised directly by the community itself.
We believe that Castlebrae Community High School should not be closed for the following reasons. We cannot support the closure of the school unless and until all the issues below have been addressed in full.
Eight Red Lines for Castlebrae Closure:
Craigmillar Books for Babies
This project is based rent free in the janitor’s house on the school grounds. Their work supporting 650 families in the Craigmillar area from the day their first child is born until they’re 3 years old and is widely recognised as outstanding and has recently been rewarded with 5 year funding from the National Lottery. The closure of Castlebrae would see them homeless. They should therefore be guaranteed a shop front location on, or within the vicinity of Niddrie Mains Road at a peppercorn rent in light of any school closure.
This is a real strength of Castlebrae and is currently used by a number of pupils from other schools. If school stayed open could be developed as a centre for excellence for pupils from other schools in east Edinburgh.
For many students at Castlebrae the provision of some vocational content in the school week keeps them engaged in education altogether thus improving their core literacy and numeracy skills. If this vocational provision does not transfer to their new school, with the same space, facilities and teaching resource – these young people will be at serious risk of dropping out. It needs to be recognised that this vocational provision grew organically in the school in recognition of the fact that pupils were very territorial and would not attend leave community to attend college. This will make transition in to a new school environment very challenging.
This is not just a “crèche” for those attending adult classes as inferred by the council report but a facility for parents of under 3s. It is also used by a number of carers who are providing day care for children on behalf of the Social Work department. It is only one of two ‘non referred’ facilities in the area. This service would need to be given a new home, with the same range of facilities and services within the area.
Additional Support Needs
It is little wonder that Castlebrae regularly performs poorly in exam performance tables when no less than 44% of the pupils have additional support needs – almost twice the rate of any other school in the city. Should the school close the resources and wrap round support for these students must transfer in full.
Current sports facilities are good and considerably better than in some neighbouring schools. In the event of closure a guarantee must be given for the future of the pitches by transfer to a community body providing a permanent changing facility and a power supply for lighting. Furthermore, the students at Castlebrae must be guaranteed the same number of PE hours in the school week at their receiving school. Should that school be Portobello, significant investment in the short term will be necessary as PE provision at Portobello High currently falls far short.
This is a Community High School providing activities for adults who are encouraged to make use of the facilities of the school. This includes access to a gym and use of the vocational training facilities for things like art, woodwork and cooking classes. These facilities are not available anywhere else and by their nature, could not be easily transferred into ‘Sandy’s (Castleview Community Centre) or the Jack Kane Centre.
And if the School closes…
In the event of closure the annual savings derived from closing the school should be reinvested in the educational opportunities of the young people and wider community of Craigmillar. This must include at the very least, a minimum a mentoring system for students in the transition from school to employment or further training; support for pre-school and primary school pupils to raise attainment.
Whether or not the school closes…
Irrespective of any decision to close, we need a clear commitment from the Council to the building of a new school in Craigmillar. There is a site and a design all ready. This school needs to be reinstated on the list of new schools the Council will build over the next few years. One option for the school could be for a specialist school offering opportunities not available elsewhere. PARC has recommitted itself to keeping the site available. The Council must reaffirm its commitment also.
For more information contact Sheila Gilmore MP on 661 7522 & Kezia Dugdale MSP on 348 6894.