Councillor Godzik responds to recent criticism of proposed primary school extensions

This article was sent to the Edinburgh Evening News on 15 January 2013.

As your Editorial comment (8th January) stated the Council sits between 'a rock and a hard place' when it comes to the rapid projected rise in primary pupils. We expect to see a rise of around 20% in P1 pupils by 2020 and a number of our primary schools are already under real pressure.  That's why, since taking office in May 2012, the Capital Coalition set about looking at the issue through a cross-party working group, which included parental representation and consulted with schools to understand their individual needs. This included assessing what available space there was to convert to classrooms, and also considered the possible reopening of closed schools, but generally speaking this wasn't seen as a positive option by parents.

In reference to recent comment in this paper on the design of the extensions, I feel I must respond to the misleading representation of what it could be like to be taught in one of these extensions.  The classrooms will be warm, fresh, and ultimately as good a learning environment as is available in any other Edinburgh school.  They will be proudly adorned with pupils work as all others are.  

The Scottish Government issued guidance on new schools in its Building Better Schools document, a document which the Council contributed to extensively.  The buildings we are proposing will absolutely meet the aspirations in this guidance, and to say they have 'no green ambitions' is simply wrong.  These buildings will use less energy than the vast majority of the current school estate, and along with their sturdy construction, will reduce life cycle costs of running them.  Double glazing with properly insulated walls and roofs will be an improvement to some of the original buildings they're adjoining. 

The classroom is the workhorse of the school environment, it needs to be the right shape to provide the best learning environment.  'Almost square' is the right shape, it allows for the best daylight, the best acoustics and the best shape for teachers to monitor groups of pupils. It is no surprise then that the new extensions reflect that shape in their external appearance.

The fact of the matter is we have got to provide extra space in these popular schools now or many, many parents will be forced to send their children out of catchment which would prove an extremely unpopular move and a much greater upheaval.

I'm pleased that the Parent Council's at the schools affected provided broad support for our approach, and we are continuing to look at possibilities of upgrading and improving playground space.  Ultimately we need to deliver the best we can within the budget available, not just for the pupils currently attending the school but their younger siblings and the whole community which these schools serve.

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