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BUILDING FOR THE FUTURE: TAKING EDINBURGH'S SCHOOLS IN THE 21ST CENTURY

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Edinburgh City Council's education service today unveiled ambitious plans to bring its entire school stock into the...
Edinburgh City Council's education service today unveiled ambitious plans to bring its entire school stock into the 21st century. Ultimately the education department wants to ensure that schools across the city are new or refurbished to offer the best possible experience of education for pupils.

With this long term goal in mind and as we reach financial close on our initial PPP project, we are embarking on a further ambitious and complex project to design and deliver a comprehensive asset management strategy across our estate.

Central to the strategy are proposals for a second private public partnership. With 15% of Edinburgh's school already involved in the first project, the second phase aims to tackle some of the unique difficulties facing the city.

At a time when many other local authorities are using PPP to rationalise school stock and tackle falling rolls, Edinburgh must address overcrowding issues in secondary schools and rebalance the spread of the secondary school population across the city. Edinburgh is the only growing large city in Scotland and in economic terms is the faster growing large city in the UK - growing faster than London, Manchester and Birmingham.

We also envisage that this new PPP project offers great potential to maximise revenue savings by tackling the management and cost issues surrounding a limited number of split site primary schools.

Our city's pupils as individuals deserve the best and most appropriate educational opportunities and we need to ensure that as an authority we can continue to surpass our statutory obligations. The means that wherever possible education monies and resources target teaching and learning, and are not merely used up in running and maintaining an outdated education estate.

The PPP route for education should not be seen in isolation. It also opens exciting possibilities to reassess our priorities and to strengthen links with health, social work, recreation, community education and other external agencies. Doors open to provide a wide range of community facilities on school campuses.

Ewan Aitken, executive member for education, said: 'Edinburgh is the fastest growing large city in the country and this growth is forecast to continue for the foreseeable future. We are one of the few local authorities where the population is rising and many of our secondary schools are already under severe accommodation pressure. Our PPP2 proposals, taken in parallel with a strategic review of secondary catchment areas, aim to address these difficulties.

'We recognise that in many parts of the city we are running short of places and in some schools we have to provide better facilities for the modern curriculum. Every secondary school in the city which is not in PPP1 or been recently refurbished will be considered as we prepare our second bid. This is a time of exciting potential but we face many challenges.

'For example, Forrester and St Augustine's High School are not very good buildings butare built on large sprawling sites that offer the opportunity of a fresh canvas to work with. Since Boroughmuir and Tynecastle were built there have been extensive changes to the curriculum and we could provide better facilities for the modern curriculum. The city also has several 60s and 70s school buildings now reaching the end of their 'natural and useful' lifespan.

'Schools are at the heart of local communities and this must continue. We will be working in partnership with all interested parties to make sure that our schools do provide the type of community facilities geared to the different community needs across the city. For example we are already in talks with community education, health, social work, recreation and other agencies as well as also looking at ways of incorporating leisure facilities, for example libraries within our plans.

'There is much more to delivery of education that buildings but bad buildings hinder the ability of staff to be the educators they want to be. This is about giving our already high quality staff the resource of high quality buildings tailor made for 21st educational purposes'.

Commenting on Edinburgh's wider asset management strategy, Roy Jobson, added: 'Edinburgh wants the very best for every child - good buildings help and pupils deserve the best.

While PPP lets us tackle many of our outstanding maintenance issues in a way that would be impossible under traditional local authority funding methods, we should not be blinkered as it is not the only solution. What Edinburgh needs is a long-term asset management strategy so that we can look at all the available options and use our resources in the best way possible to plan for the future.

'PPP, capital funding, developer contributions from developments like the Waterfront and South East Wedge are just some of options available to use. By embarking on this long term strategy we can ensure that every funding avenue can be explored to ensure we can meet our vision and provide buildings we can be proud off'.

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