September 11, 2008

Parents Plead for Delay to Closure of Primary School

By Gemma Fraser,

THE city's education leader has promised to look again at closing a city primary school by Christmas.

At a heated public meeting at Bonnington Primary, parents appealed to education bosses to keep the school open until the end of the school year at least.

The council is proposing to close the Leith school by Christmas and is in the process of a public consultation, with the final decision to be taken at a full council meeting in November.

Education chiefs are also proposing to close Lismore Primary in Bingham by Christmas, and Westburn Primary in Wester Hailes by next August.

However, after hearing pleas from Bonnington parents at the first of a series of public meetings into the school closure plans, education leader Councillor Marilyne MacLaren assured parents she would listen to their concerns.

But she warned there were "pros and cons" to extending the life of the school by a few months if it were ultimately to close.

She said: "Suppose the committee did say 'yes, OK, this school will close but it won't close until next summer'. There's a worry the parents will take their children away anyway."

Parents last night strongly refuted this suggestion.

Despite the fact the school roll has fallen from 80 at the start of the summer to 34 now because of the closure threat, parents said they only removed their children from the school because they felt "forced" into it.

Ian Metcalfe removed his "heartbroken" daughters from Bonnington following the announcement of the proposed closure in June.

He said he felt "guilty" but felt like he had been left with no choice.

He said: "The council has been forcing parents to move their children because they've not given any option but to close.

"The only reason the school doesn't have the numbers of children is because parental choice has been made because the council is saying it's going to close."

Another parent told the meeting: "The fact that we are still here shows that we are not going to move.

Parent Lesley Orr added: "I can guarantee that if the school stays open, a lot of parents will come back."

A review of the school estate was ordered due to the drop in the number of primary school pupils in Edinburgh, with numbers falling by nearly 6000 since 1997.

Originally published by Gemma Fraser, Education Reporter.

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