Council Approves School Catchment Changes
Midlothian Council agrees to alter primary school catchment zones after consultation
From 2015, new pupils in Valleyfield, Broomhill and Deanburn will attend different primary schools, however there will be no changes to secondary schooling until 2018.
At a cabinet meeting last week, Midlothian’s councillors agreed to proceed with proposals to alter the primary school catchment zones in Penicuik. The plans, which were consulted on earlier this year, will see changes to the catchments of Cuiken, Cornbank and Strathesk primary schools.
Midlothian Council opened a public consultation of the matter of altering the zones in February after it became apparent that the school rolls in the town were uneven, with certain schools over capacity and others running below, or well below, the set capacity. The changes are also to combat the creation of new housing developments, and the subsequent rise in pupil numbers, in the north west of the town.
Five proposals were consulted on, four of which will be put into effect from the next school year 2015/16. The remaining proposal, which would see primary seven students in Strathesk progressing onto Penicuik High School, instead of a mixture of both Penicuik and Beeslack secondary schools, has been deferred until the 2018/19 school year. This delay is to allow a county wide consultation to be undertaken, allowing secondary school catchment zones to be altered.
The changes from the next school year effect families living in Valleyfield, Broomhill and Deanburn. Those living in Valleyfield will send their children to Cornbank St James Primary instead of Strathesk. Additionally, pupils living in the Broomhill area will also attend Cornbank St James instead of Cuiken. Pupils from Deanburn will move from Mauricewood Primary to Cuiken. These changes will only affect new pupils and to help aid the move, a transition period of two years will give parents the option to send their child to either the new catchment school or the old catchment school. A full list of streets included in the changes can be found at the end of the article.
Councillor Bob Constable, cabinet member for education, said:
I’m delighted to see these new arrangements for non-denominational primary schools in Penicuik address a number of concerns and views raised during our public consultation earlier in the year.
We heard from around 250 or so parents, pupils and staff about what they thought of our draft proposals. We’ve taken these opinions on board and changed the proposals accordingly. Many thanks for everyone who took the time to tell us what they thought. I hope those who did will agree, we’ve listened and acted on what they told us.
Contray to the councillor’s statement, a council report made available to the public (dated 11 June) shows that a maximum of 97 responses were counted, with proposal three only inspiring 84 people to share their opinions. The comments from concerned parents and local bodies showed that respondents were most worried about the safety of the walk to a different school. The council has insisted that their road safety department will be implementing changes to make the new routes as safe as possible. Other respondents feared a change to the social mix of pupils in Cuiken and Cornbank. This was also refuted:
Concern has been registered about the lack of social balance at Cuiken, Cornbank St James and Strathesk Primary Schools if the proposals are implemented. A theoretical study, using the current pupil roll as a model, has been undertaken to examine the impact of the proposals on the relative deprivation scores of the schools as measured by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD). This demonstrates that the proposed changes on the SIMD profiles of Cornbank, Cuiken, Mauricewood and Strathesk are relatively small in the context of the range of SIMD for Midlothian schools.
During the consultation, fears had been raised over the apparent transferral of pupils away from Beeslack Community High School. The secondary school, which was once amongst the top ten schools in Scotland, currently accepts pupils from around twenty primary schools, with many travelling well out of their catchment area to attend. However many believed that their falling school roll would only be accelerated with the planned catchment changes. It is a fear which is confirmed in a report by the council (page 12 “Consultation Report” June 11):
The pupil roll at Beeslack is projected to continue falling by approximately 20 pupils each year until 2018. After that the roll is projected to grow gradually. The impact of these proposals, if not tempered by parental choice, would accelerate the rate of reduction by increasing the annual fall in pupil roll to approximately 40 pupils.
As of September 2013, Penicuik High had a roll of 566 (334 below capacity) whilst Beeslack had a roll of 780 (80 pupils below capacity). The council hope that development in the north west of the town will allow the rolls to gradually increase. Despite a lack of interest in building, and slow progress in granting permission of applications, Midlothian Council are pressing ahead with allocating further land to housing in the forthcoming local development plan. Failure to provide a sufficient increase in pupils by 2018 could see the secondary schools operating well below capacity. Council figures show that without further changes Penicuik High will be operating at just 54% of its capacity in the 2017/18 school year. Beeslack will be operating at 80% capacity.
A council employee close to the matter told us earlier in the year that “both schools were nearing the end of their operational life”, raising further concerns as to what exactly will be done to combat the rapid decline in numbers.
Affected Streets – Move to Cornbank St James
Alderbank, Baldwin Court, Bank Street, Bog Road, Bridge Street, Broomhill Avenue, Broomhill Road, Cairnbank Gardens, Cairnbank Road, Carigiebield Crescent, Cranston Street, Croft Street, Fetteresk Cottages, Heinsberg House, High Street, Jackson Street, John Street, John Street Lane, Kirk View, Lamb’s Pend, Peebles Road, St James’s Gardens, St James’s View, The Square, Thorburn Terrace, Vaucuse Place, West Street & Wilson Street
North West Cuiken
Laverock Drive, Linty Lane, Merlyon Way, Rullion Road & Terregles
Bankmill View, Beech Place, Bellerophon Drive, Bridge Street, High Street, Lower Valleyfield View, Millade Cottage, Parkend, Peebles Road, Pomathorn Bank, Pomathorn Road, Telford Cottages, The Square, Uttershill House, Uttershill Stables, Valleyfield Road, Valleyfield View, Woodslea Cottage & Waterloo Bank
Affected Streets – Move to Cuiken
Cuikenburn, Royal Court, Rullion Green Avenue, Rullion Green Crescent & Rullion Green Grove.
Dykes Road, East Queensway & Queensway.
Andrew Court, Anne Court, Deanburn, Charles Street, Philip Place & Scott Road.
What do you think? Are the primary school changes welcome? What would you like to see happen to the secondary schools? Let us know your view below in our poll or further below in the comment box.