SCHOOLCHILDREN WALK OUT! – against Edinburgh closures

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Children at two Edinburgh schools yesterday staged a walkout of classes as part of a campaign against the planned closure of 22 schools and nurseries in the city.

Pupils from Craigentinny Primary and Castlebrae Community High walked out at the start of their school day before returning to lessons.

Additional protests took place at other schools including Abbeyhill Primary and Bonnington Primary against Edinburgh City Council plans to close 13 primary and three secondary schools in the wake of an Audit Scotland review last month.

Six nursery schools and four community centres are marked down for closure.

Tina Woolnough, Chair, Parents in Partnership, a citywide support organisation for Edinburgh parents and families, told News Line: ‘Parents and children in Edinburgh are extremely upset at the proposed closure of 22 schools and nurseries.

‘Across Edinburgh, schools and communities are organising their own protest meetings and rallies.

‘There is a highly-charged atmosphere, particularly as the City of Edinburgh Council has now banned protests on school property and has gagged teachers at affected schools from speaking out.’

The City Council has claimed that falling school rolls mean many school buildings are half empty.

Yesterday’s protests were part of a campaign organised by furious parents who have formed the Edinburgh Against School Closures campaign.

A number of parents have organised e-petitions to save their children’s school and more protests are expected to be held at other schools in the city as the campaign to save them gathers pace.

Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union secretary Colin Mackay condemned the closure plans.

He said: ‘Areas of multiple deprivation are the areas where schools should be safeguarded because they have a breadth of expertise in dealing with the social problems there.

‘If you close the schools, you move the problems elsewhere, to schools without the expertise and the breadth of experience needed.

‘The council’s education department overspent by £8.6 million last year, largely due to the growing demand for services for vulnerable youngsters.’

Meanwhile it has emerged that pupil numbers for more than a third of schools in Edinburgh earmarked for closure meet or exceed the 60 per cent occupancy guideline level used by the Audit Scotland watchdog.

Figures show that six of the threatened schools have higher occupancy rates.

According to figures released by the council, primary schools such as Abbeyhill are at 91 per cent capacity, with St Cuthbert’s on 82 per cent, Dalmeny on 84 per cent, Stockbridge on 89 per cent and St Catherine’s at 72 per cent. Drummond High School is at 79 per cent capacity.

Audit Scotland said it provided information but it is up to the council ‘to decide whether their schools are viable or not’.

• Second News story

METRONET TUBE STRIKE IS ON

THE FIRST of two 72-hour strikes by more than 2,300 RMT members at failed Tube privateer Metronet is to go ahead from 18:00 on Monday after the company and its administrator failed to give the unequivocal guarantees on jobs, transfers and pensions that the union is seeking.

RMT general secretary Bob Crow said yesterday: ‘The letter we have received from Metronet and the administrator falls way short of the guarantees our members need and deserve.

‘What we sought was firm, unequivocal guarantees, but frankly our members are being asked to stake their jobs and their pensions on a pig in a poke.

‘The only assurances we have received about jobs and transfers cover only the period of administration, and that is simply not good enough.

‘It is strange that the administrator can determine all sorts of things about the future of the PPP contracts, apparently including who the next fat-cat privateer might be, but is not in a position to give on-going guarantees on the jobs of the people who actually do the work.

‘On pensions we have received no guarantee from the employer at all.

‘Of course we welcome Ken Livingstone’s desire to bring Tube maintenance back in-house, but the fact remains that the guarantees we need can only come from the employer.

‘When the jobs and pensions of our members are at stake, vague assurances are not enough, and the strike by our members will go ahead at 6pm on Monday.’