September 26, 2008
Move School and Get Better Exam Results Parents Vent Fury at Council’s Argument for Shutting Primary
By CATHERINE SALMOND
ANGRY parents have been told children at an under-threat primary would get better grades if they moved to a bigger school.
Education convener Marilyne MacLaren told a public meeting in Wester Hailes that closing Westburn Primary was the best option for pupils at the school.
She said the falling school roll was the reason for poor attainment levels and told parents their children would thrive in alternative schools with far more pupils.
Cllr MacLaren said: "I do believe larger schools offer the best teaching and there are very responsible arguments for having them.
"Children learn well in a large pool. They are stimulated and enthused by working with their peers and they are given more opportunities."
Mother Nicky Scally, 38, of Calder Gardens, chooses to send her children to Westburn instead of her closest school, Sighthill.
She said: "What about the ethos of our school? There is more to attainment than just maths and reading. It's a very short-sighted approach to education."
Council officers have recommended closing Westburn Primary by next July, a move that would generate a saving of GBP 1.4million.
If agreed, parents will have a choice of sending their pupils to one of three other schools in the area - Sighthill, Murrayburn and Canal View.
Officers argue that with just 139 pupils on the school roll - a fall of nearly 200 over the last 25 years - it is no longer educationally or financially viable to keep it open.
But, at last night's meeting, emotions ran high as parents fought for the primary's future, arguing there was more to a successful school than pupils' grades.
And parents were backed by MSP David McLetchie who described the argument for bigger schools being better for pupils as "flawed".
He highlighted statistics showing reading levels had fallen at Canal View since it merged with another primary in the area.
He said: "This is therefore not a strong argument at all."
There are 1300 spare places in primary schools across Wester Hailes. Westburn Primary has the lowest school role and the poorest attainment levels.
Cllr MacLaren said: "There are too many places, too few children and not enough money to go around.
"The main interest of the council is children's wellbeing."
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