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Argyll & Bute 2010
In 2009 Edinburgh City Council (EDC) proposed the closure of Drumbrae Primary School. A part of the Council's argument for closure was the necessity to reduce surplus capacity in the West Edinburgh Sector. EDC has now had to make “emergency” plans for increasing school capacity in the sector and elsewhere.
The proposal paper1) showed average occupancy at 77% with 399 “surplus” places (out of a total of 1702). With a notional capacity of 306, the closure of Drumbrae would reduce to to around 100 - or 5.5%.
The proposal paper acknowledged that GROS2) were already predicting rising primary rolls in Edinburgh, but the proposal explained that the growth would not be uniform. It did not however explore how this this lack of uniformity would impact on either the West Edinburgh Sector generally, or the Drumbrae catchment explicitly. There was mention of housing projects in other the catchment of other schools in the sector and that there was nothing similar planned in the Durmbrae catchment. The school closed in 2010.
|Situation in September 2012|
|School||Sept 2012||Spare Places||Rate (%)|
This show how the relatively modest increase in West Edinburgh pupil rolls seen by 2012/13 has completely absorbed the extra capacity created at Clermiston. With existing overcrowding at some schools and with the prospect of further rises EDC has now had to make plans for emergency alterations to Fox Covert Primary School3) to alleviate the problems.
It needs to be remembered that “Notional Capacities” of schools are theoretical numbers based on every class having exactly the right number of pupils and do not reflect a realistic capacity that allows for flexibility in educational provision. Running at or close to theoretical capacity can have significant negative impacts on schools' ability to deliver education. Audit Scotland have said:
“Many viable schools have surplus capacity. Indeed, no authority wide system can be expected to run at 100% in any circumstances. Some elbow-room is always needed. Perhaps little over 80% can realistically be achieved.”4)
At the time community groups and local politicians challenged EDC's assumptions and logic regarding roll forecasts, but this criticism was rebuffed.
Whatever the other merits or demerits of the Drumbrae closure proposal, which were well laid out and argued in the proposal paper, the argument of the urgent need to reduce capacity in the area has proved ill-founded - only three years after the school closed. The Drumbrae example shows how a limited and short-term view of school capacity and roll forecasts, and a failure to allow for flexibility and change, can have damaging consequences. Despite Edinburgh's experience, other Scottish local authorities are continuing to promote aggressive capacity reduction policies in the face of rising rolls.