December 13, 2017
A community without a school?
Wester Hailes – the last great housing scheme to be built in Scotland – was originally designed to accommodate almost 15,000 people. The planners at the time were famously criticised for building a community the size of a medium sized town with none of the facilities you might expect – other than a few shops, one hotel and some schools. The community has worked tirelessly for over 40 years to build Wester Hailes into a place that people are proud to call home. No surprise then that the Council’s proposal to close the secondary school has gone down like a lead balloon.
A petition to the City of Edinburgh Council opposing the proposed amalgamation of Wester Hailes Education Centre and Currie Community High School has been launched by local residents.
At the time of writing the petition started by Aaron Aitken had over 1700 signatures. It argues that instead of amalgamating the two schools into a new South West Edinburgh High, repair work could be done or new schools could be built on the current playing fields.
The petition argues:
WHEC has been the central point of the Wester Hailes community for almost 40 years and if these proposals became a reality it will completely disturb the locals as many families use WHEC for more than a school. Adult classes and recreational uses of the gym and swimming pool would also be put in jeopardy.
The proposed new locations have more issues that arise as pupils would now need to travel by bus or car instead of walking building a reliance on non eco-friendly methods, unless they were to use a bike on a busy artery road during the morning rush hour.
Pupils would also need to leave far earlier to get to school on time. There are no shops or amenities around the proposed sites, which means kids who don’t get school lunches or take a pack lunch may go hungry. WHEC is currently surrounded by multiple local shops and bakeries where kids can choose to go.
The reasons given by Edinburgh Council for the proposal which is currently open to informal consultation are:
- The Currie High School building needs to be replaced due to its condition
- The buildings at WHEC are in poor condition and need a lot of investment.
- 14% of WHEC’s catchment pupils already go to Currie High School, only 49% go to WHEC.
- WHEC has a roll of 300 pupils and space for 750. The S1 intake at WHEC in August 2017 was 66 pupils. Projections suggest WHEC’s roll may be 366 by 2030. WHEC’s roll peaked at 576 in 1999 but has been in decline ever since.
- WHEC has a small catchment area and combining Currie High and WHEC would provide a more diverse catchment area.
Local politicians have voiced their opposition to the proposal. Councillor for the Pentland Hills ward Susan Webber said:
As a local Councillor and someone who grew up using the WHEC. I am saddened at the proposals the council has circulated for informal consultation. I attended Currie High School having lived in Baberton Mains and used WHEC for swimming and badminton. I have several family members that have recently used the vital cardiac rehabilitation services.
The proposals clearly demonstrate a lack of community understanding and indicate a disconnect with identifying the current and future needs of the wider community.
In an article in the Evening News local MSP for Edinburgh Pentlands wrote:
I was shocked and surprised by the council proposal to close two secondary schools in my constituency of Edinburgh Pentlands.
The two schools involved, Currie Community High School and Wester Hailes Education Centre, are cornerstones of their communities. The staff strive to get the best out of the young people they teach and the schools provide leisure facilities and adult education classes for their local area.
I will be campaigning for the two schools to remain on their existing campus and I would urge parents and all members of the community to take part in the consultation. Only by both communities supporting each other to fight these proposals can we protect our local schools which are the heart of any community.
The Digital Sentinel has reached out to other local Councillors to share their views on the proposal and awaits their response.
The Council is keen to hear the view of parent councils and will be holding consultations with parent councils in all the affected schools between 9 January and 9 February 2018. They ask that you contact your parent council by 22 December 2017 if you would like to take part in these discussions. The topic will also be discussed at Wester Hailes Community Council’s upcoming December meeting take place at Wester Hailes library on Wednesday 6 December 2017, 6.00pm – 7.45pm.