Pupils are to go “up on the roof” in a bid to ease the Capital’s schools crush.
Education chiefs have proposed building a rooftop playground at Flora Stevenson Primary, which has been lined up for emergency expansion work amid soaring demand for spots in overcrowded classrooms.
The unique “rooftop garden” would be situated on top of a new teaching block set to be erected to reduce acute accommodation pressure caused by rising rolls.
City bosses hope the development will allow new classrooms to be provided while averting a reduction in overall playground space.
Parents at the Victorian-era school have welcomed the plans, which draw inspiration from similar projects in Japan, Germany, Scandinavia and England.
Lindsay Law, who has children in P3 and P5 at Flora Stevenson, and is parent representative on the city’s education committee, said: “I think we’re all excited that the council are looking at other possibilities to make up for the loss of playground space when the new classrooms are built.
“Flora Stevenson has one of the worst child-to-playground space ratios in the city, so obviously there’s a need to put in more than just another classroom there.”
The council’s vision for a rooftop garden comes as the Capital prepares for a population boom, with new data yesterday showing the total number of residents is expected to rise by nearly 30 per cent over the next 25 years.
Edinburgh’s classrooms are already feeling the squeeze, with primary school rolls set to jump 15 per cent to nearly 31,000 by 2019.
Flora Stevenson is not the first school to be singled out for a rooftop playground and activity space, as the replacement Boroughmuir High will have one when its new premises open in 2016.
While stressing pupil safety would be of paramount importance, mums and dads said they were heartened to see council leaders considering radical ways of maximising the use of cramped inner-city teaching spots.
Jane Weatherly, the school’s parent council chairwoman, said: “We did stress that the loss of playground space would have to be compensated and, fair dues to the council, they have come up with innovative ideas.
“Stockholm has lots of roof gardens and we’re going to be looking abroad to gather the best information we can while this is being looked at.”
Education bosses said the rooftop proposals had been put together on the back of parents’ views and that they would continue to work with families to overcome the rising rolls challenge.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “This shows once again that the council are actively working with parents to tackle rising rolls, and are bringing forward some radical solutions to ensure that the educational environment for pupils is not compromised.”
A wave of brand new teaching blocks will be built at primary schools across Edinburgh in a bid to head off an overcrowding crisis.
Eight schools – Clermiston, East Craigs, Flora Stevenson, Gilmerton, Pentland, Ratho, Wardie and James Gillespie’s – have been lined up for permanent standalone classrooms to ease intense accommodation pressure as catchment populations soar.
The blocks – designed to host around 27 classes – have been proposed as part of the latest package of emergency measures to expand schools which are bursting at the seams.
But relentless rises in P1 rolls have led to the programme’s overall scale and cost being revised upwards for the third time in less than a year.
Education chiefs now estimate they will need to build 87 new classrooms to tackle the problem – up from last year’s projection of 63 and 81 in late February.
The jump has also fuelled a near-£1.5 million rise in the expected cost of schools’ expansion since the start of the year, with the outlay likely to increase from £18.5m to just under £20m.
City leaders have admitted the updated figures mean the deficit they will have to plug to complete the programme is set to swell to almost £5m, with the total bill, including long-term borrowing charges, expected to hit £32.5m.
Opposition leaders said the latest changes showed the Capital’s rising rolls programme had become a “runaway train”.
Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the Greens, said: “Barely two months after setting a council budget, the need for additional classrooms at primary schools is already set to cost another £5m that is not accounted for.
“While I am sure that the council will find that extra money, as it must, it is in the context of other programmes, like school repairs and improvements, also being millions of pounds short.
“With each passing week, the folly of closing seven schools in the last council term becomes ever more obvious – and the case for a long-term strategy for school buildings becomes more urgent.”
New information has revealed that, after meetings with parents and teaching staff, all seven primary schools selected for expansion before August 2015 will have permanent, standalone classrooms built within their grounds.
Proposals for the new blocks come as the Capital prepares for a predicted 28 per cent explosion in its total population over the next 25 years.
Classrooms are already feeling the squeeze, with rolls set to jump 15 per cent to nearly 31,000 by 2019.
Three south Edinburgh schools hit by particularly acute accommodation pressures have been included in the latest proposals, as education chiefs mull a range of long-term strategies which include construction of the Capital’s first entirely new primary since the 1970s.
A four-class teaching block is set to be built at James Gillespie’s Primary, while further analysis is to be undertaken at Bruntsfield to identify accommodation solutions for August 2016.
At South Morningside Primary, 40-year-old teaching “huts”, which have been slammed as unfit and unsafe by parents, are to be torn down and replaced with at least five new temporary classrooms.
But mums and dads have expressed bitter disappointment that permanent remedies still appear to be many years away.
South Morningside father Michael Wilson, 44, who has a daughter in P7 and a younger child due to start P1 in 2015, said: “It’s very disappointing – these huts are just glorified Portacabins.
“Getting rid of the old huts is maybe progress, but we’re just getting a more modern hut.”
Council leaders have also admitted it is unlikely that multiple problems with the school’s ageing annexe at Cluny church centre – used to accommodate around 50 South Morningside pupils but lacking dedicated medical, toilet and road safety facilities – will be “fully addressed” until a long-term solution is found.
“This is not what we want – it’s not the ideal outcome at all,” said Mr Wilson.
“It’s a pity that the council is in so much debt because of the trams. We need a new school – they need to get that built.”
Fiona Kenny, parent council member at East Craigs Primary, where a tiny gym hall has forced children to eat lunch on their knees, said: “The school cannot deliver on both the P1-3 free school meals and the two hours of PE.
“The positive thing is that they have finance to provide additional classroom space which will relieve pressure on existing classroom areas.
“But the frustration is over the two-budget process. You have the rising rolls budget, which will only provide for additional classrooms, and the capital budget, which you need for a gym hall, and which is empty.
“They have funding for classrooms when they need it and nothing else, even though these are things which are fundamental to pupil development.”
Parents and health experts have also expressed alarm at the possibility that construction of the new teaching blocks will eat into already cramped playgrounds across the city.
Peter Moir, chair of Wardie Primary parent council, said: “We’re are blessed with lots of outdoor space. However, a significant amount has been used up with two additional buildings in recent years.
“With the prospect of a further two classrooms and a new nursery being built within the school grounds by August 2015, the parent council have been pushing for a strategic approach for the management of the school estate. Through a process of making representation of the parent council views with the council, we are now in a position where we are working in partnership with the council, to find a positive solution which will maintain the integrity of the playing field and ensure there’s enough teaching space. It’s a fine balancing act.”
Emma Conroy, of Edinburgh Nutrition, said there would be grave risks to children’s health and general wellbeing if vital outdoor play space was lost through never-ending construction work.
She said: “Exercise in early life sets the tone for later life. And I would be concerned about kids not having adequate exposure to safe levels of sunshine.
“There’s increasing awareness of the importance of vitamin D for adults. It’s almost more important for children because they’re still growing and developing, and there are concerns over problems of brain development for kids who don’t get enough exposure to sunshine and vitamin D.
“It’s certainly common sense that letting kids spend free time outdoors as compared to being indoors is crucial. Play helps the development of brain function.”
City bosses rejected suggestions that they had lost control of the rising rolls programme and said they were taking all necessary steps to provide sufficient teaching space.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “We’re responding to the demand from rising pupil numbers across Edinburgh, working with school communities and head teachers to put in place some innovative solutions.
“I would be happy to listen to other solutions that other people are putting forward, but obviously we have to deal with the demand that’s coming through now and that’s what we intend to do.”
And he called on opposition leaders to say precisely what they would do to fix the problem of overcrowded city schools.
Bruntsfield Primary School will have a brand new playground due to the initiative of some of the parents of current pupils. The design is drawn up but now it is time for talking hard finance.
Sports Scotland Active Places awarded the project £52,804 but now parents have to raise a further £27,000 to add to their £25,000 already raised. The group of parents behind the project say they are well on their way to achieving this. They are planning some fundraisers over the summer including a summer fete next Saturday. The money already gathered for this project was raised by regular fundraisers like quiz nights, family ceilidhs and their Christmas fair. They also raised money by having sponsored events like a run, a pyjama day and a special dress-up day at the school.
Jane Ewins one of the parents behind the scheme said:-”Current plans are to build between July and December 2014 with construction prioritised at times when the school grounds aren’t being used, for example during school holidays. We’re now in the middle of a very busy and intensive fund-raising campaign!”
Chris Rankin a landscape architect with Rankin Fraser and active play specialist Michael Follett of OPAL ltd collaborated on the plans for the exciting new play area.
The designers want the project to demonstrate innovation in the redevelopment of urban school playgrounds in Edinburgh. The new facilities will follow the “best practice” standards defined by Play Scotland, be a resource for the rich diversity of community grounds in the local area, and use design to promote outdoor learning, physical activity and active play.
They plan for the small urban space to be used by the local community and after school sports clubs as well as enriching learning and play for the school pupils.
The new facilities will include:
-an open and flexible space with diverse opportunities for both active play and sports which will include lighting
- a small sports surface with line marking for football, basket ball and short tennis with a space suitable for other sports played by primary pupils including hockey, cycling, active games, climbing and free running
- covered space for instruction and coaching and including table tennis
- traverse wall and landforms to provide spaces for active play
- an area with ‘free running’ fixed equipment to encourage active play
- storage area for moveable football goals, sports equipment, play materials and includes space for community groups to store equipment
Catchment areas at 16 city schools are set to be redrawn – and up to five new primaries built – to cope with an influx of thousands of extra pupils from a major bout of housebuilding over the next decade.
Five districts have been earmarked for new primaries while several campuses are set for extensions to accomodate a surge in rolls as part of a drive worth tens of millions of pounds.
Two “super-primaries” are being considered – each containing as many as 29 different classes – with as many as four streams per year group.
The total cost of proposals outlined by education chiefs peaks at around £83 million though not all works are likely to progress.
City leaders will decide which proposals to take forward once a housing roadmap for 30,000 new properties to be built across the Capital by 2024 is rubberstamped. Known as the Local Development Plan (LDP), the roadmap will dicate where education bosses must find space for around 3,500 additional primary and secondary school pupils whose families will be living in the newly-built developments.
Parents have welcomed fresh investment for under-pressure classrooms but are urging transparency from the council over how the cash is spent.
Concerns have been raised about the prospect of extensive catchment reviews amid warnings that families who strategically bought homes close to high performing schools may no longer be given priority for a place.
Luke McCullough, chair of the parent council at Royal High – which may face an extra 441 pupils alongside Forrester and Craigmount secondaries – said: “If they were to say that one school would grow as opposed to another, it would only be by reviewing catchments and we are certainly not supporting that.
“The catchment review would be to shut out areas that are currently in because the school is full – lots of people have made the choice on where they will live based on where their kids go to school.
“Investment needs to be shared across schools to catchment review is not needed.”
Eleven primary school catchment boundaries could be redrawn depending where the extra housing is sited, while five secondary school areas may also be revised.
Planning chiefs said decisions on whether to proceed with new-build primaries in Maybury, Broomhills, Gilmerton, Brunstane and Builyeon Road in Queensferry would be key to determining the extent of catchment reviews at neighbouring schools.
An ambitious programme of multi-classroom extensions has also been unveiled, with work being mulled at primary schools ranging from St John Vianney and St Catherine’s in the south to Gylemuir and Fox Covert RC in the west.
As overcrowded primaries are expanded under the city’s rising rolls programme, parents have urged education chiefs to provide greater clarity on how the new LDP plans will affect high schools ahead of an expected spike in pupil registrations from 2017.
“I have asked a number of times for the council to share their thoughts on how that issue will feed through into the high schools,” said parent chair Luke McCullough.
“It will not be possible to debate the Local Development Plan without first recognising the current issues around rising rolls. While the council is working with primary schools around that issue, they have been fairly quiet on what that means for high schools, especially ones that are pretty full, like the Royal High.”
He added: “Parents want to understand more about what the council is planning for secondaries.
“In reviewing anything, the council has really got to work very closely with local communities.”
Opposition councillors have criticised some of the proposed measures, with plans to transform Gilmerton and Gracemount primaries into 29-class “super primaries”, sparking alarm.
Councillor Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the Edinburgh Greens, said: “When we plan long-term for the future education and new schools in the city, we should be aiming high – aiming at best practice. The best school environment and educational outcomes for future generations.
“Schools with two classes in each year are acknowledged to be the optimum providing for the best education – to increase the size of a current school is a false economy.
“We should build our schools at the hearts of our communities where the whole community can easily access by walking or cycling safely to schools.”
Councillor Jason Rust, Conservative education spokesman, said if the Scottish Government demanded more housing it was “vital” there was “adequate infrastucture in place”.
And he said: “The council does not have a glorious track record in terms of future projections given the fact schools were not so long ago closed and any measures need to be carefully scrutinised.
“There is certainly concern that by adding piecemeal new developments to the Water of Leith villages for instance, that the infrastructure requirements are not being properly addressed at present.
“It is obviously sensible for school provision to be considered at this stage, but it needs to be borne in mind that even if sites are allocated for housing then that is not to say development will take place.”
Education bosses said they were planning ahead for swathes of new housing and stressed that not all the options currently on the table would be taken forward.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “The Local Development Plan identifies potential new housing developments needed in Edinburgh and the associated impact on the city’s education infrastructure.
“In many areas further assessment is needed to determine the preferred option but we do recognise that there will be increased pressure on our schools so we will be working very closely with planners to ensure we have the places available to cope with the extra housing.”
Planning for more pupils
Options under consideration:
1) Brand new primary schools at Maybury, Broomhills, Gilmerton, Brunstane and Builyeon Road, Queensferry.
2) New extensions at Gylemuir, Fox Covert RC, Hillwood, St John Vianney, St Catherine’s, Newcraighall, St Margaret’s and Currie primary schools.
3) The creation of 29-class “super-primaries” at Gracemount and Gilmerton.
4) Several high schools to be expanded individually or in combination – Catholic high schools are also set to increase in size and/or introduce prioritised admission for baptised RC pupils.
A new high school will be built in Portobello Park by August 2016 after MSPs gave the long-awaited project the final green light.
Shovels are set to break the ground within weeks after MSPs passed a Private Bill paving the way for work to get under way on replacement premises for Portobello High.
Royal assent – expected over the next four to six weeks – is all that is needed before building teams move in and begin construction of a state-of-the-art, £41.5 million campus for the school’s 1400 pupils, who are currently being taught in a crumbling 1960s tower block.
For local families, the decision marks the end of a 2765-day journey to final victory, with joyful and relieved parents hailing yesterday’s vote as a “great moment for the future of Portobello”. Dad of two Michael McTernan, 48, who has children in S3 at Portobello High and P6 at Towerbank Primary, said: “The issue with the school has gone on too long and has been too divisive – we need to draw a line under that.
“We’re going to get a great school and a new park, and now is the time to grasp that opportunity for the kids. What has stuck out for me was how seriously the MSPs took their job over this – I was taken by how earnest and how balanced they’ve been.
“Ultimately, the facts speak for themselves and this is the right solution.”
Plans to build the new school on protected green space in Portobello Park were thrown off course when objectors successfully appealed to the Court of Session in 2012, forcing the council to lodge a Bill aimed at switching the land’s legal status and opening it up for education-related development.
Yesterday’s vote means construction in Portobello Park is now almost certain, although it is understood the time needed to obtain royal assent presents a window within which objectors could launch an appeal on human rights grounds or another aspect of EU law.
But given the care with which MSPs have weighed individual interests against the community benefit of a new school, legal experts said a challenge was unlikely, with one telling the Evening News that the chances of success were “virtually nil”.
Leaders of Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG), which has been fighting the proposals, were tight-lipped when contacted last night and said only that an urgent meeting would be held to decide on what action they would take next. Branding the vote a “bleak day” for Scottish democracy, PPAG member Stephen Hawkins said: “MSPs tell us that today’s ruling won’t lead to other councils appropriating inalienable common good land but today’s adoption of the Bill shows that it can happen.
“Sadly, today’s decision comes as no surprise to PPAG supporters as we know that many MSPs had made their minds up to adopt the Bill even before hearing the evidence.
“The parliamentary process and PPAG’s experience of the balance and fairness of private Bill committee proceedings has been woeful.” He added: “Of huge frustration and upset to PPAG is the fact that many of our supporters went to Portobello High School or have children who are due to go the school themselves. The sometimes highly personal accusations about PPAG delaying the school’s development are without foundation.”
Delighted city chiefs said contractors Balfour Beatty would be formally appointed to begin work as soon as the Bill becomes law.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “This decision will be welcomed by the Portobello community as it clears the legal obstacle that has prevented us building the new Portobello High School on Portobello Park.
“We know there is overwhelming support in the local community for our plans.
“The young people of Portobello deserve high-quality education facilities and I am confident not only that the school community will benefit from our plans but also that the wider local community will be able to enjoy the improved sports and other facilities that will be available when the new school opens, which we anticipate will be in August 2016.”
The Queen has approved a Bill aimed at allowing construction of a new Portobello High on legally protected land in the Capital.
Edinburgh Council’s Portobello Park Bill, which was passed in June, received royal assent on Friday and comes into force today.
The bill was originally submitted last year as part of moves to switch the park’s legal status and open it up for education-related development.
Construction of a £41 million campus - which will replace the 1960s tower block currently housing the school - is imminent, with building work expected to be complete by August 2016.
Welcoming the news, Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Now that Royal Assent has been received, it will be full steam ahead with our plans to replace Portobello High School.
“Over the last few weeks, since the Parliament approved the legislation, officers have been preparing to appropriate the park and sign the building contract with Balfour Beatty and both will now take place over the next few days.
“In a few weeks work will start on Portobello Park as Balfour Beatty start to prepare the site for the construction works. This is a hugely important milestone in the new school project and I know staff and pupils returning to school next week will enjoy, as I will, watching the progress on site as their new school is built.”
A contractor has been appointed to build the new Boroughmuir High School in Edinburgh.
The City of Edinburgh Council’s finance committee approved awarding the contract to O’Hare & McGovern.
Work is expected to start in October, with the school finished by the summer of 2016.
Plans for the school, to be built 500m from its current position at Viewforth, were approved in April.
They will see teaching areas arranged around an atrium, traditional classrooms leading out to break out areas and a rooftop games area.
The school will also have a new public park along the canal’s north bank.
Cllr Paul Godzik said: "Pupils, parents and teachers have been waiting a long time for a new school and approving the appointment of a preferred contractor today is the remaining key step to starting to build it.
"Boroughmuir has a first-class academic track record, and the focus is now firmly on delivering a new school that provides an equally impressive learning environment."
Builders will move into Portobello Park this month as work on the long-awaited new high school gets under way.
A perimeter fence will be erected around the site, with plans in place to construct the school’s steel structure by the end of the year.
Pupils will also play their part in the £41 million project, making regular visits to the site, taking part in design sessions and keeping a watchful eye on the progress via webcams from their classrooms.
Community leaders fighting for a new school said the sight of contractors rolling into the park would be welcomed.
Sean Watters, chair of Portobello For A New School (PFANS), said: “I think there will be quite a lot of excitement, actually, and I think it will come as a huge relief for most people that the school can finally go ahead.
“And I know they’re trying to involve the cluster schools – pupils and staff – and give them input into the final design choices for the school, which is exciting as well.”
The timetable comes after the Scottish Parliament passed legislation in June which allowed the new high school to be provided on land at Portobello Park – ten years after the project was first put forward.
Plans for replacement premises stalled in 2012 when campaigners fighting the proposals lodged a successful appeal with the Court of Session after it emerged the park was legally protected.
But city chiefs last year submitted a private bill which switched its status and opened it up for education-related development.
Around 1400 pupils are currently being taught in a crumbling 1960s tower block, now in such poor condition that parts of the roof are reported to have blown off in strong winds.
Portobello Park Action Group (PPAG), which campaigned against the council’s plans, said it was a “pity” that the area was about to lose a valued green space.
Member Stephen Hawkins said: “This will mean the loss of the park and the council have wasted four years in providing the new school. They have caused the delay – they made a mess of the court process and the Scottish Parliament had to rescue them.”
Education bosses said that providing timely and detailed information would be a priority throughout the construction works.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Keeping the local community updated about progress on the new Portobello High is really important and it’s great to see construction works now about to start.
“The Portobello community have waited many years for their new school which will be ready for the start of the academic year in August 2016.”
He added: “We are pleased to be working with Balfour Beatty on this project which will allow us to deliver high quality educational and sports facilities that I know will be welcomed by both the school and wider local community.”
A crumbling school could be torn down and replaced with state-of-the-art facilities costing £29 million as part of a new bid for government funding.
Proposals will be submitted by the city council for a replacement Queensferry High School to be built as part of the Schools for the Future programme.
Councillor Andrew Burns, city council leader, said: “With the new Portobello High School building going forward, I think it’s good that we’re planning ahead.
“I’m hoping and I’m optimistic that this report will get through the council next week, we will put the bid in to the Scottish Government, and it is agreed. That would mean we have the next round of schools in the pipeline.”
School buildings had to be showing major defects or *serious risk of failure to be considered for a cash injection from the £1 billion pot, leaving the city council with the choice of two schools – Queensferry High School and the Wester Hailes Education Centre (WHEC).
Queensferry High School was chosen due to its size, as it has a capacity for 1000 pupils, with 751 pupils on the school roll for 2014-15.
Cllr Burns said: “All this shows that despite all its *challenges, the school estate overall is in comparatively good condition compared with the rest of Scotland.”
The estimated costs for delivering the new school would be £29,809,900.
It is hoped the project would receive more than £18m of government funding, leaving a funding gap of around £11m which would then have to be filled by the council using the various capital grants it has access to.
This news comes as part of a wider commitment to plug the funding gap in school repairs in the city, as Edinburgh plans to start a fourth wave of introducing further *money into its schools.
Areas receiving funding will include Craigmillar, which will get a new secondary school, and assessments of primary schools across the city such as Abbeyhill, Holy Cross and Stenhouse.
Cllr Burns said: “What we’re trying to do is get a set of *criteria and conditions agreed for the next wave of school improvements.
“I’m going to try my best to ensure we have all-party *agreement on these criteria so that we don’t have unnecessarily political arguments about which school goes where in the rankings.”
The proposal will be discussed next week by the city council.
Blueprints for a £27 million high school have been unveiled – amid fears it will not be built by an agreed deadline.
The new school in Craigmillar would have space for 600 pupils, as well as a £2m suite of dedicated classrooms aimed at turning the area – one of the Capital’s poorest – into a “city-wide centre of scientific excellence”.
And it could eventually expand to accommodate up to 1200 children as families are drawn by new housing developments.
The campus would replace Castlebrae Community High, which last year narrowly escaped closure over plunging rolls and poor exam results.
A site of around 4.2 hectares – located close to the existing community library and with an entrance at Niddrie Mains Road – has been earmarked in revised masterplans which will guide the wider transformation of Craigmillar.
But question marks have emerged over whether the new school will be built by August 2020 – the date given when proposals to close Castlebrae were unveiled.
Education leaders said the decision to keep the school open meant there would be enough classrooms to meet projected demand over the coming years and that time-scales for a replacement would hinge on the availability of money.
And with potential sources of funding expected to yield no more than £9m, they have admitted they face a deficit of at least £18m.
Growing uncertainty has sparked concern among parent leaders at the 900-capacity Castlebrae, which currently has a roll of around 130. They said city leaders had pledged to build a new campus by 2020 after scrapping plans to close the school and urged them to make good on their commitment.
Susan Heron, vice-chair of the school’s parent council, said: “The people of Craigmillar were promised that there would be a new school by August 2020 – the community will not be interested where the money comes from, they were promised a school and they want that promise fulfilled.
“The new capacity [is] brilliant, and forward thinking considering the regeneration. That was exactly why we campaigned for the school – it’s needed in this growing area.”
She added: “The science centre is exactly what we wanted given we are a stone’s throw from the new Bioquarter site.”
City chiefs, who set aside nearly £620,000 to cover early design costs for the new school, said they would do everything possible to fund construction.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Building a new school always depends on the required funding being available.
“The Capital Coalition are working very hard through the budget process to ensure that maximum funds available are invested to tackle historic under-investment and provide Edinburgh with the best estate possible.”
It's the trailblazing playground revamp that’s guaranteed to stop traffic.
One of the Capital’s most overcrowded schools is bidding to permanently close a section of busy road as part of radical plans to swell its cramped play space.
Sciennes Primary could see the size of its playground more than double under blueprints being drawn up by the Friends of the Sciennes Trust.
It would mean closing a key stretch of Sciennes Road next to the Sick Kids but any expansion plans would coincide with the hospital’s expected relocation to Little France by 2017.
But motorist groups have warned that inadequate planning could see surrounding streets transformed into rat runs following a road closure and argued that it should be considered a last resort.
Landscape architect Martin Stevens, who has helped draw up renovations for Sciennes Primary and other schools across Edinburgh, accepted there may be frustrations but urged drivers to consider the bigger picture.
“The consideration of why this is being done is perhaps something that I would hope tempers people’s concerns about not being able to drive where they used to,” he said.
“What we’re trying to do is create a series of interventions so that playground capacity is as much about a variety of disparate activities than it is about pure square meterage – and Sciennes has a fantastic opportunity to provide both,” he said.
The designs would also boast an array of play features including a mini-ampitheatre, floor paintings and dens at the 600-capacity school.
But Neil Greig, director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said boosting playground space by closing off roads was unprecedented in his experience.
“This is the first time I’ve heard of a school being expanded through taking up a road,” he said.
“When you have an area where there’s lots of car ownership, any loss of road space is likely to lead to problems.
“It should be seen as a final option, after they have exhausted all other avenues [for expanding the school].”
Education leaders have branded the plans as “ambitious” but stressed that any progress on the designs would take place gradually.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader at Edinburgh City Council, said: “We are having discussions about making this a reality.
“There’s a tremendous amount of partnership working happening right across the city and it’s absolutely fantastic to see. The council is *playing a role in supporting this and we are looking at how we can assist and develop further *programmes at schools across the city.”
Ratho PrimaryA planning application has been submitted by Scott Brownrigg for the erection of a two storey classroom extension within the grounds of James Gillespie’s Primary, part of a wider investment by Edinburgh City Council to meet the needs of a projected rise in the school age population through to 2019.
Located in the Marchmont area of the city the white render and zinc build is designed to be permanent whilst taking advantage of efficiencies gained through use of standardised components and ‘Optimum Schools’ principles.
These embrace a passive approach to environmental conditions, durable materials and flexibility of use.
In their design statement Scott Brownrigg said: “By adopting a simple, singular form which in its materiality makes reference to the existing context, the proposal maintains a clear relationship with the site and its surroundings whilst still retaining an individual character.
“What would ordinarily be a standard circulation space at first floor level has been enlarged for use as a shared ‘hub’ space adjacent to the classrooms - this can be used for informal teaching/ break-out space and allow congestion free movement around the building at peak times.”
Similar extensions at Ratho, Flora Stevenson, Pentland, Gilberton and Clermiston primary Schools have also been submitted.
The revamped Royal Blind School in Edinburgh is being officially opened later following a major redevelopment.
The school recently merged its two campuses, moving pupils from the Victorian campus in Craigmillar Park to buildings in Morningside.
The new facilities have been specially designed to help pupils with little or no sight.
Wide corridors with contrasting colours will help pupils get around the building independently.
The ceremony is being carried out by the charity's patron HRH The Duke of Gloucester.
The royal opening marks the beginning of a new phase for the school, which has been providing specialist education for children with visual impairment since it was founded in 1835.
Other facilities include a multi-use games area suitable for children and young people with disabilities and a flat for visiting parents and carers.
The school is also developing its outreach programme to give extra support, training and advice to teachers of visually impaired children in mainstream schools across Scotland.
Richard Hellewell, chief executive of Royal Blind, said: "The school has undergone a very thorough refurbishment over the past year, to ensure it continues to meet the needs of our pupils in a changing landscape.
"The re-developed school offers the unrivalled knowledge and experience of our teachers in a modern, accessible setting."
Head teacher Elaine Brackenridge said: "The pupils have settled very well into their new school and are enjoying the benefits of the inclusive educational environment offered here at the Royal Blind School.
"The school ethos is very positive and vibrant and it is our aim to provide all pupils with the necessary experiences to optimise their learning opportunities."
Minister for Learning Dr Alasdair Allan MSP said: "The Royal Blind School makes an invaluable contribution to Scotland's education for children and young people with complex additional support needs, not just for those attending the school itself, but by sharing its expertise with other schools across the country."
The first entirely new primary to be built in the Capital for more than 30 years would share a playground with a neighbouring school, under plans being considered by education chiefs.
Land at Deanbank Resource Centre and Oaklands residential care home – both in Canaan Lane – is being earmarked to build the modern 14-class school in south Edinburgh.
It is hoped that the £16 million campus will ease pressure on South Morningside, James Gillespie’s and Bruntsfield primaries, where overcrowding has resulted in scores of children being taught off-site and in prefabs.
If approved, the new school would be built on a one-hectare plot next to St Peter’s RC Primary.
Education leaders have admitted the proposed site is smaller than it should be under existing legislation but say a possible agreement to share pitches and other facilities with St Peter’s will create sufficient space. Proposals for a permanent South Morningside annexe and bespoke expansion work at the three under-pressure primaries are also on the table but it is understood construction of a brand new school is viewed as “preferable” by city bosses.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “It would be on the adjoining site to St Peter’s – they would be quite literally next door to each other.
“This is a significant step forward.
“This whole issue has been talked about and discussed for the best part of 20 years.
“We’ve put it back on the agenda.”
The new plans would require surrounding catchment areas to be redrawn substantially, with South Morningside and James Gillespie’s each hosting 14 classes. Bruntsfield Primary would become an 18-class school.
Proposals to build a new campus at Deanbank come after we revealed how work was set to begin on converting the resource centre into a temporary annexe for P1-2 pupils at South Morningside.
“We’re looking really hard at a solution and we think we’ve taken a big step forward,” said Cllr Godzik.
“Getting a site and identifying a site has traditionally been a real barrier in progressing with a new school in this area.
“Suitable sites don’t become available very often.
“It’s an area where there’s a great deal of pressure.
“So we’ve found a site – it’s council-owned and it works in terms of location.”
The development has been welcomed by senior education officers.
Gillian Tee, director of the council’s children and families department, said: “We have examined a number of options to ease their accommodation issues and have carried out extensive consultation with the school communities in the South Morningside, Bruntsfield and James Gillespie’s areas to come up with potential solutions.”
The new £11m St John’s RC Primary School will be built on part of the existing Portobello High School site.
Councillors agreed the decision after discussing a report at the Edinburgh City Council meeting today.
The report outlined the results of the eight-week consultation carried out between September and November this year with parents, staff and the local community on three options.
Councillor Paul Godzik, Education Convener, said: “It’s been a long time in the planning but I’m sure all parents and staff at St John’s will be delighted that such an important milestone for the new school has been reached.
“Using this site is yet another positive outcome from being able to build the new Portobello High School on Portobello Park. This allows us to take forward this project on part of the existing combined school site rather than having to move to a completely different one. It also creates fantastic opportunities for the area of open space that will be created on the remainder of the existing combined school site.
“Today’s decision reinforces the Capital Coalition’s commitment to significant further investment in the school estate. St John’s has been a long-standing priority for replacement within the Wave 3 programme which is now being delivered and has been fully funded by the Capital Coalition.”
The new St John’s RC Primary School is being part funded through the Scottish Government’s Scotland’s Schools for the Future programme which is managed by the Scottish Futures Trust.
Edinburgh City Council has begun delivery of the latest wave of primary school extensions across the city to cater for its growing school-age population.
Additional classrooms are being built by Morrison Construction, Scott Brownrigg and Hub South East Scotland at Clermiston, Flora Stevenson, Gilmerton, James Gillespie’s, Pentland, Ratho and Wardie primary’s
Councillor Paul Godzik, education convener for the City of Edinburgh Council, said: “Since 2013 we have delivered an additional 46 modern, high quality class spaces in our primary school estate and a further 24 will be delivered for this August.
“No other Council in Scotland has taken such an innovative and collaborative approach to tackling this issue.
“Whether it is delivering entirely new buildings, extending existing buildings or reconfiguring existing space, we are committed to providing the very best educational environment for our pupils.”
Population projections indicate that the number of primary school pupils in the city will rise from 28,010 today to 31,700 by 2020 and 35,400 by 2030.