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Celebrities back campaign to save community school case study

CASTLEBRAE is a community in itself to many who use its facilities.

BIG IMPACT: Marylee Watters, her son Sean McGuinness and their family will lose out if Castlebrae closes. Picture: Steve Cox
BIG IMPACT: Marylee Watters, her son Sean McGuinness and their family will lose out if Castlebrae closes. Picture: Steve Cox

Marylee Watters was the youngest of six to go to Castlebrae. Her daughter attended, her son has just started first year and her toddler goes to the family centre in the community wing while she goes to keep-fit.

The 38-year-old said her son Sean McGuinness, 12, and his friends had been looking forward to a new school being built.

"The surprise was that we were promised for years we were getting a new school built here. Sean was really excited that he was going to get a new school.

"The kids are going to a different school and they feel they are going to be outnumbered by others from a different area. It's not just shutting a school, they are messing with a lot of kids' lives.

"This is a great community here at Castlebrae and there's a lot of mums come to the community centre, Asian and Polish and all different people here."

She added: "It's put a dampener on Christmas and New Year for all of us."

WRITER Irvine Welsh, comedian Elaine C Smith and arts impresario Ricky Demarco have joined a campaign to save a closure threatened community school.

They are backing 1100 others in a Facebook push to halt the closure of Castlebrae High School in the Craigmillar area of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh City Council announced in the autumn it is to close the school, which also has a community centre wing, just as pupils, parents and teachers were awaiting news of a proposed new secondary school for the area.

It insists a new school is still planned, once the area is regenerated, and also denied the plan was related to the costly court case surrounding plans for a new school in Portobello.

There are also 431 names on an online petition that campaigners Save the Brae are to use to continue to lobby Holyrood and the council.

The council's consultation on the issue ended this month but a decision on the closure will not be finalised until February. It claimed the 196 pupils was an occupancy rate of 33% that is expected to decline further to 158 in 2015.

Sheila Gilmore, Edinburgh East Labour MP, said: "Capacity is largely looked at in terms of raw numbers, whereas we believe a wider range of issues need to be considered.

"There is still time before the decision is made to have this reversed. Craigmillar needs a school and it needs more affordable housing."

Kezia Dugdale, Lothians Labour MSP and youth employment spokesman, is also backing the campaign. She said: "It is important because it's far more than just a school. It's a central part of the Craigmillar com-munity and provides critical services for pre-schoolers, for adults and indeed old age pensioners.

"The closure of the school will have a devastating impact on the community and I believe contribute to a slowing of the regeneration efforts in the area."

Save the Brae chairman Kevin Finlay said there was still hope in the area for a new facility. He said: "Build a school today. Rebuild a community tomorrow.

"You've got the design. You've got the land. You've got outline planning permission. You've got 200 ready and waiting pupils."

Edinburgh-based Mr Demarco, who has a long-standing relationship with community arts projects produced in the area, said: "It is a mortal blow to the community life in Craigmillar and also the welfare of the city."

Education convener Paul Godzik said: "We have a commitment to provide our children with the best possible start in life. As things stand Castlebrae Community High School is not able to offer a full curriculum and is achieving very poor educational outcomes and that is why we chose to consult on the future of the school.

"We want all our young people to have the opportunities to learn, thrive and reach their full potential and it is our duty to make sure every child gets the education and support they need to do this.

"This process does not affect the council's long-term aspiration to build a new high school in the area. We are still very much committed to this.

"Further regeneration will bring more new housing and more families for which a new, modern, fully functional school will be necessary once the pupil numbers in the area rise to a level that requires it."

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