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Castlebrae High School Head Teacher Personal Statement

The Motion

Full Edinburgh Council Meeting, 14th March 2013.

This motion was passed: (all Labour, SNP and Greens voted in favour- 43 votes out of 58)

  1. Council acknowledges the strong arguments presented in favour of, and against, closing Castlebrae Community High School; and the concerns expressed by the local community and the ‘Save the Brae’ campaign.
  2. Council rejects officials’ recommendations in the report.
  3. Council instructs the Director of Children and Families to report to the Education, Children and Families Committee within three months with future options for Castlebrae Community High School including the potential to retain the Castlebrae Community High School building as an Annex of Portobello High School until a new Secondary School in Craigmillar is delivered.
  4. Council instructs officers to submit a report regarding the potential establishment of a Commission with appropriate external experts to look at viable options for the use of the proposed Annex.

What This Means

This was the motion Cllrs fighting to save the school had to settle on to get it past Cllrs Burns, Cardownie, Godzik and Child. No-one campaigning to save the school likes the idea of it becoming a Portobello Annex, so the fight is on to stop this happening. The above motion means that while Save the Brae won the day, the battle to keep the school as a proper school is yet to be concluded.

Kev Finlay, Save the Brae chair, proposed to Cllrs that the Commission has a REMIT to explore the educational needs of both the existing Castlebrae pupils and those pupils in Craigmillar that attend other schools, with a view to creating an educational experience that is attractive to all pupils in catchment. He wants the Commission to consist of the three ward Cllrs (2 Labour, 1 SNP); Cllrs from each of the 3 Opposition Groups (Green, LibDem, Tory); Head Teacher of Castlebrae; Education Expert (Dr Terry Wrigley, Prof Leeds Metropolitan Uni); CEC Education Officer; Save the Brae rep; Castlebrae Community Parents Forum rep; Craigmillar Community Council rep.

See the deputations and debate on the Council Webcam

The meeting started at was 3.45 pm before the FIRST item on the agenda, Castlebrae High- was voted upon. The deputations came first- and these have to be seen.

They were: Craigmillar Community Council (Norrie Davies); Community Regeneration Forum (Terry Tweed); Castlebrae Community High School Family Centre (Marylee  Watters), Portobello High-Former head boy (Andrew Dove); Castlebrae Community Parents Forum (Honor Flynn); Castlebrae Community High School Pupil Council (Susan Dodds, Colette Fulton, Nicole ); Save the Brae Campaign Group (Kev Finlay and Prof Terry Wrigley).

And the debate: cracking contributions from Cllrs Mike Bridgman and Davy Walker.

Media Coverage

STV coverage: (reporter- Liz Monaghan) (Cllr Norrie Work steals the show)

On hearing the result, Kevin Finlay (chairman of the Save the Brae) said: “Now the hard work start and we have to get the school back on track and make it a success so we don’t have the council knocking on our door again saying they are looking at closing it. There might only be a small number of pupils coming out those gates today but they will be as elated as we are that it’s been saved.”

Radio Forth coverage: (Forth News reporter Max Steele speaking to the campaign’s chair, Kev Finlay)….

BBC Coverage: (reporter-Seonag McKinnon)

The Edinburgh Reporter: (reporter- Phyllis Stephen)

Two Edinburgh Evening News Stories in one day “Castlebrae High given closure reprieve” (Reporter- Rory Reynolds) and “Training hub plan as Castlebrae is saved” (Reporter- Laura Cummings)

Green Party: Greens Welcome Decision to Keep Castlebrae Open

How the Battle was Won

The Arguments made by Save the Brae in Favour of Keeping the School Open

Factsheet 3 of 3- sent to all Councillors on 11th March 2013

Better off at Porty? A disection  of the Education Chiefs’ Claim

Castlebrae has 165 pupils, 44% with ASN. What’s their future? The Choices::

At Castlebrae Community High:

  • Sixth on positive outcome league table
  • Small year group: 17 in      S1. Small school: 165 pupils.      Can study alongside adults (art, etc)
  • Exam attainment: 89% for      Target 1 (SCQF level 3 in English & Maths, 2012), 18th in City’s league table. Free Meal Registration      is highest in the city, at 54%      (most deprived area)
  • Journey time in Craigmillar to school- 15 min max by foot,      5 min for most
  • On-campus vocational training
  • PE facilities: on-site

     —————      OR      —————-

At Portobello High:

  • Ninth on positive outcome league table
  • Large year group- 211 in      S1. Large school: 1,340 pupils
  • Exam attainment: 95% for      Target 1 (SCQF level 3 in English & Maths, 2012), 12th in City’s league table. Free Meal Registration      is among the lowest in the city,      at 12%
  • Journey time from Craigmillar to school- 30 min by bus, 40 min by foot
  • Off-campus vocational training for most subjects at Edinburgh College,      journey time over 1 hr by bus, plus travel time to school for Castlebrae      pupils- total 90 minutes.
  • PE Facilities: in Craigmillar– at Jack Kane

What the Experts Said….

Commission on School Reform

Scottish education reforms have ‘failed the disadvantaged’, said the report from Commission on School Reform, reported by the BBC on 4.3.13.

No school in a disadvantaged area has ever matched the performance of a school in a more affluent area, it reveals. “It is worth noting that this is not true of other countries,” says the report. The report, “By Diverse Means”report, was published on 4th March 2013
1. “No school in a disadvantaged area has ever matched the performance of a school in a more affluent area.”

Children & Families had cited Castlebrae’s exam results to back its claim that it is a failing school- they compared its exam results with Portobello, Liberton and Holy Rood as a justification for closure. But Craigmilar is the most deprived part of the city, Duddingston (feeds to Holy Rood), one of the most affluent…

2. “Increased emphasis should be given to developing skills of employability and the importance of vocational education should be recognised as a greater priority in curriculum planning.”

Castlebrae consistently outperforms comparable schools in terms of the number of pupils entering positive destinations. Its vocational training facilities are second to none in the city.

“The Commission is, indeed, in favour of a greater commitment to vocational education.   [Although] I am obviously fairly ignorant of the position at Castlebrae, I would hope that a secondary school could offer a good service in relation to both vocational and academic education.”

Keir Bloomer of the Commission on School Reform and author of last week’s report “By Diverse Means”

Moving Castlebrae pupils to Portobello is a ‘bad idea’.

In the Evening News: Dr Terry Wrigley, who edits the international journal Improving Schools and is a visiting professor at Leeds Metropolitan University, said the Castlebrae pupils would be in danger of getting lost in the system if the school was closed and they were moved to the considerably larger Portobello High School.

Does Small Make a Difference?

Class sizes of less than 20 do. A 2002 study by the University of Glasgow/SCRE at Does Small Really Make a Difference? found that class sizes of less than 20 made a significant difference to learning outcomes. Thus Castlebrae pupils would clearly attain better outcomes staying where they are.

New Facts came out

The Council published its School Leaver Destination Return (from the Positive Outcomes League Table, Appendix 8 of the Castlebrae Closure Consultation report from Skills Development Scotland)

The politicians had stuff to say too:

[embedit snippet=”sheila-gilmore-mp-for-save-the-brae”] Sheila Gilmore MP (Edinburgh East) explained why the Brae must be saved

The Newspapers Helped:

The Edinburgh Reporter of 5.3.13 ran an excellent news item on the Rally at the City Chambers, complete with video footage; and the Evening News of 4.3.13 ran a story about Cllr Andrew Burns, Council Leader, alleging hypocrisy over the closure u-turn.

Frank Boyle did a cartoon:

And Save the Brae Sent this Plea to all Councillors:

[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Plea to Cllrs against Mike Rosendale’s decision to close Castlebrae[/mantra-button-light]

[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Summary[/mantra-button-light]

Save the Brae and Kids Not Suits believe that the Castlebrae Community High School Consultation Outcome Report (February 2013) presents untruthful conclusions and some recommendations that, on closer examination, are worth far less than they appear.

All parents in South & East Edinburgh should be concerned. Those with kids at Newcraighall, Niddrie Mill and Castleview the most.

Their child’s place at Portobello High is at risk. The school is bulging at the seams. If Castlebrae closes, it will, as the Council admits, be 17 places short come August 2013. And with the 2001 baby boom feeding through, there is a real chance that your child will not get in for the next 7 years. That means a long journey to Liberton. Newcraighall children will face a 50-minute journey and must change buses halfway, at Princes St. And from 2018, even Liberton will be full. Then the Council will be building portcabins at secondary schools, as extensions are even now being added to Primary schools to cope with demans.

The reason that the Councillors are being called upon to close the school is because the Head of Schools, Mr Mike Rosendale (below), needs Castlebrae’s cash to fund Portobello High’s running costs (as he admits: Closure Consultation Proposal Paper paras 8.1 and 8.5). It is going to need to be maintained for several more years than he anticipated, because of his mistakes in thinking he could build on common good land.

The impact of the closure of the smallest school in the most deprived part of the city will have a devastating impact not just on the youth of Craigmillar, but on citizens far beyond. Castlebrae is NOT a failing high school. The Council’s own Consultation Paper shows in Table 6 that Castlebrae usually outperforms WHEC and Craigroyston in terms of pupils who move into a positive destination. Castlebrae outperformed Craigroyson with its exam results, even though it has significantly more ASN pupils and higher FMR take-up.

The Evening News stated there were  fewer than 50 responses to the consultation closure, but neglects to mention the 1,120 members on the Save The Brae Facebook Group who banded together to write as one.

In contradiction to Mike’s findings, a report by Education Scotland on the Council’s proposals gives a much truer picture.  It notes that adult users of the school’s community facilities have opposed closure – due to the loss of their Family Centre, the crèche, the chance to access learning and fitness of gym facilities, the chance to mix with pupils in classes and so on. And parents note in the Education Scotland report  that vocational training at Castlebrae is second to none and is delivered onsite by staff who know the children well.

Mike “recommends current pupils be offered a place at Portobello High, although parents could choose elsewhere”. However reports indicate that Portobello High already has no space for S3 pupils from Castlebrae and by 2017 all schools will be bursting at the seams.

86% of the responses to the consultation objected to the closure. As did not only the parents, staff and pupils at Castlebrae, but the parents of prospective pupils at the feeder primaries Niddrie Mill and Castleview.  Labour Councillors should get the full story before they rubber-stamp Mike’s decision. (Other reasons for opposing closure can be found on the Save the Brae website.)

  Susan Dodds, S1, Castlebrae High

  • I have the right to feel safe in the place I learn.
  • I have the right not to feel like an outsider and at a new school I will.
  • I have the right to say where I would like to go to school and that’s Castlebrae.
  • You don’t have the right to make this decision for me.
  • You don’t have the right to make me feel fear about what will happen to my school.
  • You don’t have the right to make me feel frightened that I may have to go to a new school.
  • You don’t have a right to take away my safe place.

Susan Dodds, S1, Castlebrae High, e-mail to Cllr Paul Godzik, 14.11.12, copied to all 58 councillors


[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Fib 1. “Very poor educational outcomes”[/mantra-button-light]

Mike’s report claims that the School experiences very poor educational outcomes compared with similar schools elsewhere in the city and also nationally

But the Council’s own Full Consultation Paper (published in October 2012) shows in Table 6 that Castlebrae usually outperforms similar schools. For 3 of the past 5 years Castlebrae has outperformed WHEC and Craigroyston in terms of of pupils moving into a positive destination

Table 6: Percentage of pupils moving into a positive destination

School 2006/07 2007/08 2008/09 2009/10 2010/11

The poor results in 2010/11 can be explained by two factors:

a) The 2010 closure of Instep, the school service which helped pupils find jobs – and

b) The Council’s Full Consultation Paper which shows in Table 7 that Castlebrae currently has 44% pupils with Additional Support Needs (ASN).

Table 7: Pupils with Particular Support Needs (September 2012)

EAL 137%12627%389%289%
ASN 8744%6414%5012%7224%
LAAC 147%133%348%124%

This is several times more than any other high school – which will have a knock-on effect on positive destinations.

Vocational training aside, Castlebrae’s academic results are by no means the worst in the Scotland. In the Full Consultation Paper Castlebrae Community High School was compared with 20 other schools within comparable areas across Scotland. This was presented to the press with the statement that “the educational outcomes for pupils at the school are, and have been, significantly poorer than those for all, or the majority of, the 20 other schools.”

Closer examination of Table 4 of the full paper on the Council’s website shows that Castlebrae pupils score, on a 3-year average, 17th out of those 21 schools. And do these other schools have 44% pupils with ASN? The research methods outlined in para 3.11 of the full paper suggest not.

And Castlebrae’s results are not the worst in the city, either. The “Educational Attainment/Improvements in Performance 2012” report, presented to the Education Committee meeting on 11th Dec 2012, shows that Castlebrae recorded improvements in Standard Grade English and Maths, with 93% of pupils achieving Standard Grades at grade 5-6 or above by the end of sixth year, compared with 84% in 2008. (Eve News)

The figures show that the Consultation Closure report presented to Committee on the 9th October can now be seen to be painting an even more misleading impression of Castlebrae’s educational attainment than was truthful. The appendices’s in the report show that Castlebrae has the highest Free Meal Registration (FMR) figures than any other High School in the city, at 54%. (The FMR stats are what the Education Dept uses to measure deprivation in the school cohort.) The second highest is Craigroyston at 41%, then WHEC at 40%.

Appendix 1a allows Castlebrae to be compared to its peers- Craigroyston and WHEC. There are 7 Targets looking at educational attainment at different stages and ages. Castlebrae consistently outperforms Craigroyston quite significantly. Every year. Over a 5-year period. On every single one of the 7 target indicators, bar 1. Indeed, over the 5 years to 2012, Castlebrae has done consistently better than Craigroyston, even though it has 13% more deprived pupils. Not quite as well as WHEC, it’s true, but then WHEC has a new head, and that school has been getting plenty of resource and support recently- unlike Castlebrae. So Castlebrae’s record is even more surprising. Obviously Castlebrae per head costs are higher. But the building is in very poor repair, so some of the costs are going to pay for leaky roofs and poor heating. And Castlebrae has more ASN pupils.

On the basis of that evidence, if educational standards were the criteria for closure, the Council should be closing Craigroyston (a brand-new school) and not Castlebrae (a decrepit one).

[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Fib 2. “Better educational outcomes could be achieved at neighbouring schools for these young people”[/mantra-button-light]

The implication is that the academic opportunities of Portobello and Holyrood are more valuable than the vocational training available from Castlebrae, when all the evidence suggests that this would lead to poorer educational outcomes for the 44% SEN pupils.

The real choices today? Telling Craigmillar kids they can study  Mandarin at Porty rather than train how to be a car mechanic at Castlebrae. The former doesn’t guarantee a job. The latter does.

According to Wikipedia, Education.. “is a form of learning in which knowledge, skills, and habits of a group of people are transferred from one generation to the next through teaching, training, research, or simply through autodidacticism. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts. “ The Head of Eton points out that school is about holistic development, enabling young people to develop a true sense of self-worth- which is essential if they are going to be able to stand up for themselves. Will Porty really be better than Castlebrae for these Craigmillar pupils?

There is no evidence to support Mike’s claim that the chance to study a wider curriculum would be an acceptable substitute for vocational training, even if sufficient support were provided (which it is unlikely to be).

What is also clear is that Craigmillar’s regeneration has failed. And it needs a Community High School more than anywhere else in Edinburgh. A report published on 2nd November by Save The Children Scotland showed that children brought up in poverty are twice as likely to start school with developmental problems than better-off classmates. It’s based on a study of 3,000 scottish children and notes that more than 1 in 5 school leavers from deprived areas become unemployed, double the national average.

The SNS website shows that 46% of Craigmillar’s population are income deprived, over four times the Edinburgh average. (In Pilton it’s 36%, in Wester Hailes it’s 38%.)

The present school roll of 165 means that Castlebrae offers a high teacher-pupil ratio; a low school roll means small class sizes and lots of teacher time with kids. It’s the best way to tackle educational challenge and ASN pupils. Transferring these pupils to Portobello or Holyrood means they will be tiny fish in a big pond. How does the Council know they won’t end up being the ones at the bottom of their new school’s exam results? Especially if 44% of them have ASN? How many of them might rather end up being at risk of exclusion, truancy or bullying? If an SEN child goes from a school of 165 pupils at Castlebrae (smallest in the city) to Portobello High (largest in the city) with 1305 pupils – how can anyone say they’ll get the same kind of individual attention? All the evidence points to the opposite being the case.

Portobello High

For Children & Families to claim that Portobello provides “far better educational outcomes for Castlebrae pupils” is untenable. Save the Brae acknowledges that Portobello offers a wider academic curriculum. But a far weaker practical one. If a better education could be achieved by giving Castlebrae pupils the chance to study Mandarin rather than Mechanics, then Children & Families may have a point.

But to claim that such provision would give better educational outcomes for Castlebrae pupils is to assume two things: firstly, that education is about academia; secondly that by providing more academic courses there will be an automatic desire to study them. But why? Why would Castlebrae pupils want to subscribe to this wider academic curriculum? Just because it is on offer? But what about the benefits of small class sizes, as they currently enjoy at Castlebrae. Does Children & Families believe that class size has no impact on attainment?

The argument for smaller class sizes is made in the 2002 study by the University of Glasgow/SCRE at Does Small Really Make a Difference? It found that class sizes of less than 20 made a significant difference to learning outcomes. Thus Castlebrae pupils would clearly attain better outcomes staying where they are.

To this we can add the element of localism and the home-school link that is so much stronger in a neighbourhood school. Furthermore, the case for keeping children at a school they so clearly love gives sound reason to consider the pupils would be better off at Castlebrae than at an establishment quite strange to them, two miles away, in a different community.

Put simply, in Castlebrae these pupils can shine. In Portobello they are more likely to linger in the shadows.


[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Fib 3.  “Support will be provided for free home to school transport”. [/mantra-button-light]

Closer examination of Mike’s report  shows that this will be in form of free transport on LRT buses. This is not support in the accepted meaning of the word. Young people must walk from home to a bus-stop, a significant distance for some. And a further walk at the other end after the bus journey.

Portobello High school is 2 miles and a 30 minute bus journey away from Castlebrae. Table 17 of the Full Paper the Council notes that Castlebrae has an 81 % attendance rate, compared to an average of 89% at surrounding schools. How can anyone  really believe the attendance rate for Craigmillar kids would improve if they have an extra 2 mile commute, twice a day-a 30 minute journey, 20 minutes of which would be by bus?

Many of these will be ASN pupils who currently attend a school which is local and that they like attending. In Table 18 of the Full Paper, the Council notes “exclusion incidents” at 49% of Castlebrae school roll, compared with an average 6.2% at surrounding schools. How could moving these pupils – to a strange school which is a 30 minute-commute away, where their parents have no involvement – “impact positively on attainment”?

[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Fib 4. “The school roll fallen significantly over the last ten years”[/mantra-button-light]

This is not exactly a fib, but the Council are largely responsible for the falling roll- not the school. There has been widescale demolition by the Council of homes which has led to decrease in the number of 10-15 yr olds in the CUDF area from 1,297 in 1996 to 874 in 2012 and this, combined with repeated threats to the school over the past 12 years has led to an erosion of confidence amongst parents- and that these factors largely account for the fall in the roll.

Craigmillar in 1996- before “regeneration”… and in 2009 –when “regeneration” is stalled

Save the Brae further notes that there is a choice for many Craigmillar parents- to send their children to Castlebrae High, built in 1976 and in poor condition (below, left) or to the competing school  Holyrood High RC, built in 2009 with its excellent modern facilities (below, right). This has led to 34% of Castlebrae Catchment pupils moving to Holyrood.

Finally, the birthrate fell consistently to 2002 and all High schools in the city are afflicted by low S1 rolls. 12% of the decrease at Castlebrae over the past 3 years can be attributed to falling birthrate alone.

[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Fib 5. “There is spare capacity at neighbouring schools until 2020.”[/mantra-button-light]

This is quite untrue. There is no capacity. There is little capacity now and less from next year. It will get much worse after 2014, as the pressure on school places rolls out to affect every family living in the south and east of the city. Download more info here: [ddownload id=”475″ text=”Schools Bursting data” style=”button” color=”blue”]

Even the Council’s  Castlebrae Community High School Consultation Outcome Report make reference to the impending problem, which was first raised by HM Inspectors. Page 50 of the 228-page report states:

2.3.9 Portobello High School Capacity

Issue Raised

In paragraph 3.6 HM Inspectors make reference to the potential for the capacity of Portobello High School to be slightly exceeded for 2013/14 if all Castlebrae pupils were to transfer to Portobello High School. Concerns were also expressed at other points in the Education Scotland Report regarding pressure on the capacity of Portobello High School.

Council Response

The position regarding the projected combined roll at Portobello has changed significantly since the consultation paper was produced. The latest assessment is shown below which is based on the actual school rolls at both Portobello High School and Castlebrae Community High School as at 18 February 2013 to which an adjustment has been made, based on previous experience, for the expected fall off in pupil numbers between S4 to S5 and S5 to S6. This analysis assumes that the full S1 intake limit of Portobello High School of 260 will be utilised as this now appears more likely for August 2013 than the 237 which has been shown as an assumption in the consultation report.

The latest projections show a potential combined school roll of 1,417 if the entire projected roll from Castlebrae Community High School sought places at Portobello High School. However, not all pupils from Castlebrae will choose Portobello High School. Even if the capacity was marginally exceeded this is not considered to be an issue and would be entirely manageable. An excess of 17 pupils represents just 1.2% of the capacity of the school and it has previously operated very effectively with a roll which is considerably higher than this.








Projected Portobello Roll at August   2013







Projected Castlebrae Roll at August   2013







Maximum combined S1 intake August2013



ProjectedCombined Roll at August 2013








Houston, we have a problem

By its own admission, the Council sees there will be a problem in 2013 if all pupils transfer to Portobello. Some may get into Holy Rood. But the following year will be a bigger problem.

There are two housing developments in Craigmillar going on site. The first, for 126 homes is at New Greendykes. The second, for 28 homes,is at the site of the old Greendykes  Primary School.

The first is by the new ERI Link Road and is by Persimmon Homes, announced on 18th Feb in the Evening News . These 126 homes will be affordable homes (mid-market and social rent) aimed at ERI staff and the first part of the 800-home development here. The complex will be made up of ten one-bedroom flats and 116 two-bedroom flats. The Persimmon Homes Scottish regional chairman observed there had been a lack of new family housing to date but he was confident that many young families would leap at the opportunity he was creating. It is highly likely that some of these 116 larger flats will go to families with children age 12-plus- who will be seeking a Secondary School.

The second, at Greendykes Primary School site, is by Link Housing association. Again for affordable housing, there will be a mixture of 2 and 3- bedroom family homes. Again, teenage children moving here with their families will be seeking places at Secondary.

These developments will be completed and occupied by summer 2014. Thus the overcrowding problems at both Portobello High and Holyrood will be significant by 2016. There will be no space for new Craigmillar kids and not only they, but children who might have been in the old catchment area will no longer be guaranteed a place. Craigmillar children will have to travel to Liberton  High School, a very long journey, maybe involving a change of buses. All the children at Newcraighall, Niddrie Mill and Castleview who currently feed to Portobello High – and who used to get in easily, will now have to fight to get a place- 628 kids in all. For they live furthest away, and if they do not have a sibling already at Portobello High, they will be way down the placing list. But there will be pressure at Liberton from new housing developments too, as the Gracemount regeneration proceeds

This will be the problem for 2016. By 2018 there will be no space at Liberton either!

Baby Boom

With the forthcoming bulge in the population leading  to packed secondaries across the city, closing Castlebrae makes even less sense. Across the city, the current demographic bulge amongst P4 pupils will translate through to S1 in 4 years time, which means that in August 2018 there will be no space at ANY of the schools in South or East Edinburgh for Craigmillar children. The rising birth rate shows this will the case for some time to come.

The graph shows the number of Edinburgh births between 1997 and 2007. The increase from 2002, the lowest point for births, reflects a trend throughout Scotland. (The increase between 2002 and 2007 is almost a mirror reflection of the earlier decline.)

This graph comes from “Investment in Schools” published by the Council August 2008. The current challenge of having to build extensions to 3 primary schools in North Edinburgh, only 4 years after 3 schools nearby were closed (Bonnington, Royston and Fort), shows the folly of the Council’s forward planning regime. Yet even back in 2008, Council officers could see what was coming.

The current problems of a low roll at S1 for Castlebrae is indicative of a problem which is affecting all high schools in the city. Children born in 2001 are those who started in S1 last August (ie when they were 11 years old). The increase in birthrate since 2002 will be reflected in the number of pupils seeking places at secondary school.

Thus Edinburgh is presently seeing the lowest number of pupils entering S1, but from this year onwards, the numbers will steadily rise. In 6 year’s time Edinburgh will need 600 more places across the city at S1 level to accommodate population growth. Any spare places will be in West & North Edinburgh- at WHEC and Craigroyston. That will be a journey too far for kids displaced by Castlebrae’s closure.

So from 2018, South and East Edinburgh S1 pupils will need to be educated in portacabins wherever the Council can find space to build them. Since there is no land at Portobello High to build portacabins, other schools will need to free up land for new buildings, which would need to be in place for three years, until the new Craigmillar High School was completed. There would be significant costs in creating teaching space to educate as many as 170 pupils for two years and these costs have not been considered in the Council report.

Reports indicate that Portobello High will already be struggling to find space for S3 pupils this August, should Castlebrae close.

More about the impact on Portobello High School can be found on the Council’s  Castlebrae Community High School Consultation Outcome Report. Please see pages 29-33 , Section 2.2.8 “Impact on Prtobello High School”. This outlines the problems coming from the Leith Academy catchment too, which piles cextra pressure on.

Holy Rood RC is going to cease being an option for non-catholic kids. The school is now telling parents that if they want to get their kids in, they should baptize them immediately and start going to church.

Page 51, Section 2.3.10 explains what will happen to those who fail to get into Portobello. Every family with children at Niddrie Mill, Newcraighall and Castleview will be affected. If children have a sibling at the school or live very near to it, they will get in. For the rest? They will be forced to find a school that can take them. Newcraighall to Liberton is a long, long way. Kids will need to take a bus into Princes St and another bus out again- a 50 minute trip. Almost two hours of their school day will be taken up with commuting. Only the catholics will be safe from the effect of closing Castlebrae.

By 2018 the whole of the city will be affected.

[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Fib 6. “Vocational opportunities for students can be re-provided”[/mantra-button-light]

There’s no space at Portobello High. And the Council says very little about the many things that make CCHS a great school and an asset to any community.  There is hairdressing and automotive repairs and many more reasons to choose CCHS. Students from Portobello High currently travel to CCHS to study Hairdressing in their salon. At the engineering course. students are introduced to engineering drawings, the centre lathe, milling machine, MIG welder and hearth. As well as soldering electric circuits, they have tasks to do on the kit-car; this may be designing and creating part of the steering or working on parts of the brakes. They produce a a range of tools and they’re taken by the Rural & Urban Training Scheme to work on cycles and motor bikes where they gain a separate qualification, completing the City and Guilds Personal Development and Employability Certificate.

The construction course consists of 8 units in total. These units are taster industrial units which include plumbing, decorative painting, site joinery, carpentry techniques, bricklaying and electrical installation. This year students helped make the Planters for the new Council Offices on Niddrie Mains Road.

Castlebrae has joined the Job, Education and Training (JET) programme. This 30-week course includes an extended work experience at a placement suitable to each student’s interest and strength. The SkillForce charity works within the school helping students attain ASDAN Bronze. Another brilliant course the school offers is Retailing Skills for Work. The store-based work experience takes place at the nearby Fort Kinnaird shopping centre, pupils moving to a different store each term.

Then there’s Creative Industries Skills. CCHS is of the few schools in the country offering this opportunity to its pupils- the consistently high level of art work produced at the school was acknowledged when the SQA sought 20 canvases from S3 pupils for their new offices at Shawfair.  The Digital Media Computing course use multimedia, video, still images, sound clips, web pages, computer games, blogs and animations.

Furthermore, CCHS works with various “Alternative Curriculum Partners”. Craigmillar Adventure Project (Capro) run a year-long outdoor education course.  Qualifications available are Duke of Edinburgh Silver and Bronze Award. The Street League initiative involves fitness through football, personal, social development, employability skills with regard to CV building, interview techniques, self esteem and confidence building. Qualifications available are Scottish Football Association Coaching Levels. Other partners include Action for Children and Inspiring Scotland who are running a 6 week full-time placement  offering a construction based community challenge which builds relationship between school and immediate community.  The Thistle Foundation will be recipient of The Challenge. Pupils benefit from on site construction work experience, employability workshop and Barclays Moneyskills programme. All participants receive a Youthbuild interview.These vocational opportunities, built up over many years of hard graft, will die with the school.

CASTLEBRAE ALUMNUSAs a former pupil of Castlebrae CHS, I am outraged that they seem to think so little of our achievements. Since leaving High School I have been studying Law LLB Honours at The University of Edinburgh. I am currently in my 4th and last year. I have a long way to go but Castlebrae helped get me to where I am. No one in my family has ever gone to university – so I wouldn’t have had a clue how to even apply, never mind having the belief in myself to apply for a course such as Law. My teachers and the other staff DID have that belief. They knew me. If I was in a larger school such as Portobello, my confidence wouldn’t have changed. I would have been one in the crowd. Students at Castlebrae need extra support in a lot of ways. The one-on-one support helps individuals such as myself overcome great personal barriers, barriers which are so common among young people who may not come from academic families or from wealthy backgrounds.Perhaps the Council should have the same confidence in the students and the school as we all do.                                                                                                Rebecca Dickson, StB website, 2.11.12

[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Truth 1. Education Scotland Report[/mantra-button-light]

The “Report by Education Scotland on the Council’s proposal to close Castlebrae Community High School”makes observations far closer to the truth.

Parents and Staff felt Mike’s October Report and Consultation were poor

In para 2.5:Parents and staff at Castlebrae Community High School identified perceived inaccuracies in the information contained within the consultation documentation.  Other concerns related to the manner in which the consultation process was conducted.  Further concerns related to the timescale for the proposal, transition issues particularly for children and young people with identified additional needs, the uncertainty pertaining to the future site of Portobello High School’s new building, the safety of young people walking to Portobello High School, and the educational benefits set out by the council.  In addition, concerns were expressed about the impact of closing Castlebrae Community High School on the local community and users of the community facilities”

Parents were unconvinced of the educational benefits of moving their children to Portobello High School

Para 2.6 of the Education Scotland Report states that: “parents were unclear about the educational benefits of the proposal for their children, including curriculum provision at Portobello High School.  They had significant concerns about continuity in learning in relation to current subject choice and qualifications.  Parents also expressed concern about the availability and delivery of vocational courses at Portobello High School.  They highlighted this aspect of the curriculum as a particular strength within Castlebrae Community High School in that it was delivered on site by staff who knew their children well.  They were concerned that vocational courses in other schools may involve travel to college which may not be appropriate given the range of needs of young people currently within the school.  Parents were also concerned about the route young people would have to take when walking to Portobello High School.  In their view, this route was unsafe for young people as it involved busy main roads and poorly lit pathways.  They perceived the planned renovation of Portobello High School and uncertainty over the site of the new build as factors which could impact negatively on their children’s education at some point in the future.”

Castlebrae Community High School pupils are against the Closure

Para 2.7 states that: “Young people who currently attend Castlebrae Community High School were not in favour of the proposal.  They were particularly worried about the disruption to their education, including having to catch up with other pupils, not receiving the same choice of subjects and the current impact on their preparation for national examinations and qualifications.  Those in S4, who are too young to leave school at the end of the 2012/13 session, expressed no desire to attend a new school for a period of five months and were concerned about their future.  Young people currently in S4 and S5 stated that they had no intention of moving to a new school, a view expressed by a number of young people within the online survey responses.  Young people at S1 to S3 expressed their concern about having to re-select subjects if current choices were not available or classes full in Portobello High School.  They cited German as an example of a subject currently studied which is not available at Portobello High School.  Young people were also worried about the difference in the size of classes within Portobello High School and the likelihood that this would mean less one-to–one support than they currently receive from their teachers.  Further concerns related to bullying, losing friends, others poor perception of young people from the Castlebrae Community High School area and losing their community identity.  Young people also expressed significant concerns about the lack of a safe route to Portobello High School and the impact of travel costs on their participation in out-of-class learning activities.”

Staff are against Closure

Para 2.8 states that: “Staff from Castlebrae Community High School were not in favour of the proposal.  In their view, the consultation meetings with the council were inadequate and the change in council personnel attending each meeting resulted in a lack of continuity in addressing their concerns.  At a personal level, they felt that the content of the proposal had seriously damaged their own professional standing and reputation within the education community.  They expressed significant concerns about the tone, content, and accuracy of the council’s proposal documentation and comments reported within the local media.  Staff felt that this had also had a significant impact on young people’s motivation and self-esteem.  They expressed particular concern for those in S4 to S6 whom they perceived would exit the education system without achieving their full potential.  Staff were extremely concerned at the timescales involved and how they could ensure the effective transition for all young people whilst maintaining young people’s focus on their learning, particularly for those studying for examinations and qualifications.  In their view, the educational benefits for young people were unclear as they felt that not all of the statements contained within the proposal were accurate.”

[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Fib 7. “The community programme can be re-provided in the local Craigmillar area“[/mantra-button-light]

Para 2.9 of the Education Scotland Report states that “Users of the community facilities within Castlebrae Community High School were opposed to the proposal.  They were concerned that the relocation of provision such as the Family Centre would lead to a reduction in, and accessibility to, the same level of service.  They felt that their views had been misrepresented within the audit of community provision collated by the council.  The Community Programme Manager and users of the community facilities were concerned about perceived inaccuracies within the council’s Audit of the Community Programme and Additional Provision.  Parents were worried about the loss of crèche facilities which enabled them to access learning opportunities or fitness activities within the school.  Community users expressed concern about the loss of the free gym facilities and the impact this would have on their health and wellbeing.  Adult learners were concerned that the level of provision provided within Castlebrae Community High School could not be replicated elsewhere, particularly the art classes where the integration of adults and pupils builds a positive community ethos.  Community programme staff were worried about their future and did not feel that they had been consulted about the implications of the proposal.  Activities such as gymnastics and dance had enabled children to audition successfully for the Dance Academy at Broughton High School.  Staff expressed concern about the future provision of activities such as these and the loss of opportunity for children if the school was to close.“

Save the Brae further notes that in 2.10 and 2.11 that parents of children attending Niddrie Mill Primary School and Castleview Primary School both expressed significant concerns about the proposal.  (These two schools are the main feeders to Castlebrae).

[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Truth 2. Castlebrae School May be Needed in 2014 as a decant for Portobello High[/mantra-button-light]

The bill to the Scottish Parliament to build on the Portobello Park Common Good land carries an element of risk, given that it seeks to be passed at the same time as the Community Empowerment Bill, which will be the SNP’s flagship bill in its independence referendum year- and one Bill contradicts the spirit of the other.

Therefore Save the Brae considers that Castlebrae should be kept open in the event that it needs to be used as a decant for pupils from Portobello so that a new Portobello School might be built on the existing site

[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Truth 3. Labour Commitments in its Manifesto[/mantra-button-light]

The Labour manifesto, published in February 2012, just before they were elected in May, said:

“They (the Lib-Dems) decided they knew best and closed good schools and nurseries without talking properly to parents.”…“We’ll ask the cross-party education committee to consult with schools and parents to draw up a long-term strategic plan to tackle over-crowding and underuse in our schools. We recognise that many of our most vulnerable and challenging pupils are failing to receive the support they need and deserve. So we’ll try to increase our support for them and seek sufficient resources to meet the growing demands placed on educational psychologists. Most of all we’ll fight to make sure education becomes a priority once again and gets its fair share of funding, allowing our schools and our children to flourish.”

Save the Brae calls upon the Labour Group in the Administration to honour these pledges by not closing a school – because of a report that was biased and inaccurate and claims it was failing – when it was not.

[mantra-button-light url=”#”]Truth 4. Craigmillar Regeneration Requires a Secondary School[/mantra-button-light]

Craigmillar’s regeneration requires a secondary school in the area if there is to be any reason for families to move here. For families thinking of moving there now, those who have children in the age range 4 -18 will need to travel far to find a Secondary School before their children’s education is complete. Only those with 3 year-olds might hope to benefit from a new high school in 2020.

With the recent completion of the Niddrie Burn restoration project and the public transport link to the ERI, Persimmons will exploit the potential to sell homes to hospital staff – so has recently submitted plans to build 1034 homes there, 40% of which will be family homes, and which it plans to sell from 2014. As the Council notes at 2.5 and 2.7 of Appendix 3 of the Full Paper

Indeed, closing the school will actually make school roll projections poorer: the sale of family homes will be badly affected if there is no high school and closing the school will stall Craigmillar’s regeneration.

One resident put this comment up on the Evening News:

There are other ramifications to the plan to close Castlebrae. On the 18th February, Persimmon homes announced in the Evening News that it is starting its build-out of 800 homes in New Greendykes, 400 of which will be family homes. Mike recommended the closure of the High school but a week later. But where will the children go to school? How will Persimmon sell its family homes? Does Mike liase at all with his colleagues in housing? Did he check to see what impact his actions would have on the regeneration of Craigmillar? All the evidence suggests not.

[mantra-button-color url=”#” color=”#47AFFF”]Conclusion[/mantra-button-color]

To close the school in the rushed manner which causes so much concern to Education Scotland is in nobody’s interest, and needlessly disrupts the education of at least 165 pupils, not to mention those who would hope to attend a local Craigmillar High school before 2020. Indeed, if the schools future was assured, the 35 pupils who have left in the past 5 months may well choose to return.

Therefore Save the Brae calls upon the Council to keep Castlebrae High School open until a replacement school is built in 7 year’s time.

More information at

Flyer for Rally at City Chambers on 5th March [ddownload id=”437″ text=”Download Flyer” style=”button” color=”blue”]



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