We build (or should build) schools to last for decades. Over the next 50 years 10,000 young people will pass through Boroughmuir High School, the catchment for which sprawls across south west Edinburgh. Today, at the City Council we looked at what kind of building we should be providing for those 10,000 young people in the future.
Green councillors supported the move to a new location between Viewforth and Gibson Terrace. Since Boroughmuir is one of Scotland’s most highly-regarded schools and the new site is in my ward I am delighted by that decision. But this is not carte blanche for any old (or new) school. We owe it to young people to provide the best school setting we can.
That means further work needs done and existing promises need kept.
That is also why is why I discussed and supported two amendments from the Labour / SNP Administration. One was to explore the site size further; the other to look at outdoor activity and sports provision. I also put forward my own additional recommendation on the school roll size, which was accepted.
To explain. The new school site is a mere 1 hectare compared to the recommended site size for a school of Boroughmuir’s type of 2.6 hectares. Most people accept that, in an inner urban area, the recommended size is unlikely to be reached but there is a happy medium to be reached. The Council is now committed to looking again at that part of the site which also has university residences being built just now and – as part of the planning permission for residences – a small park. We are left with the bizarre possibility of the Council as planning authority insisting on the park being built but almost immediately for it to be ripped up as the new school is built. I would far rather the whole area is re-examined to see how we can re-plan the green space along with a more integrated and slightly larger school site and with the opportunity to include community facilities such as Forth Canoe Club.
I also want to look sceptically at the proposal for part of the wider Fountainbridge site to be used for office space for the “Financial Quarter”. I’d far rather we had a site which catered for affordable housing, small and community businesses and education than a sector that has done little to earn our regard.
My own additional recommendation was on the school roll. The new school is to be built for 1150 pupils but the projected school population this August is 1163 and there is more house-building within catchment. The parent council asked that the City Council go back to the Scottish Government to discuss funding arrangements based on the new roll and my suggestion sought to ensure that happens. The last thing we want is for a new school to be too small on day one and a slight increase in capacity could be achieved, I believe, without compromising other neighbouring schools.
These are the immediate issues but there are other as the school now moves onto detailed design stage. We must not lose sight of matters like improving safe pedestrian access to the site from the south and over the canal, raised by Education Scotland. I am also passionate about ensuring that the new school is trailblazer of environmental performance, in energy-use, water and waste, for example. A real eco-school in
other words. And I know my Green colleague, Melanie Main, councillor in the Meadows / Morningside area, where the current school sits, will want to make sure there is a viable future for the existing buildings in Viewforth.
I look forward to the next stage.