St Andrews parents challenge ‘flawed’ Madras College statistics

Madras College's campus at Kilrymont Road.

Madras College's campus at Kilrymont Road.

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Strong criticism has been levelled at Fife Council following a stormy public meeting over its “scoring exercise” for the site selection of a new secondary school in St Andrews, amid claims that it is “deeply flawed.”

One group campaigning against a proposal to remodel the present Kilrymont site has also accused council officials of “scaremongering” over the option of a single-site school at Station Park, now being widely supported.

The meeting was organised for officials to present the outcome of the revised scoring exercise for the site of the new £40 million Madras College.

However, it was clear that many of those who attended were unhappy at the way the results had been formulated, with claims that the winning option of a redeveloped school at Kilrymont was a fait accompli.

Several speakers raised concerns as to how officials concluded the best option was a refurbished and extended Kilrymont following a report and artist’s impressions slideshow by property services manager, Colin McCredie, who demonstrated how the existing classroom block could be redeveloped, along with other areas of the campus.

But, the move appeared to backfire with concerns being expressed that the site is too small to create a full campus for a secondary school of 1450 pupils, and is also located in the wrong place to serve the catchment efficiently and sustainably.

Many in the audience also questioned comments by service manager Bill Lindsay of the perceived drawbacks if Station Park at a main gateway into St Andrews was selected.

Strong criticism has been levelled at Fife Council following a stormy public meeting over its “scoring exercise” for the site selection of a new secondary school in St Andrews, amid claims that it is “deeply flawed.”

One group campaigning against a proposal to remodel the present Kilrymont site has also accused council officials of “scaremongering” over the option of a single-site school at Station Park, now being widely supported.

The meeting was organised for officials to present the outcome of the revised scoring exercise for the site of the new £40 million Madras College.

However, it was clear that many of those who attended were unhappy at the way the results had been formulated, with claims that the winning option of a redeveloped school at Kilrymont was a fait accompli.

Several speakers raised concerns as to how officials concluded the best option was a refurbished and extended Kilrymont following a report and artist’s impressions slideshow by property services manager, Colin McCredie, who demonstrated how the existing classroom block could be redeveloped, along with other areas of the campus.

But, the move appeared to backfire with concerns being expressed that the site is too small to create a full campus for a secondary school of 1450 pupils, and is also located in the wrong place to serve the catchment efficiently and sustainably.

Many in the audience also questioned comments by service manager Bill Lindsay of the perceived drawbacks if Station Park at a main gateway into St Andrews was selected.

These included legal challenges, a public inquiry and being contrary to the development plan - all of which he suggested could delay the timescale to deliver a new school by 2015.

The council’s operations project manager Ian Nicol revealed the scores for key sites as 88 for Kilrymont refurbishment and extension, with 73 for a Kilrymont rebuild and 70 for Station Park. The same exercise carried out in 2009 gave 70 for the Kilrymont refurbishment and 72 for Station Park. The Kilrymont new build was not scored.

However, according to one parent, no credible explanation was provided by officers as to why Kilrymont jumped from 70 to 88, and Station Park dropped from 72 to 70.

He said:”Station Park was actually joint first with the university’s Langlands site in 2009, and Kilrymont’s amazing jump up the rankings merely compounds the deeply flawed nature of the scoring exercise.”

Members of the New Build, No Rebuild campaign group voiced concern about the capacity of Kilrymont to accommodate either a new build or a refurbishment/extension.

Spokesman Brian Thomson told the Citizen after the meeting:”We were assured at previous meetings that the scoring would be a transparent, objective exercise. However, we are left with a clear impression that the refurbishment of Kilrymont was the council’s preference from the outset, and that the criteria and weightings have been skewed to ensure that option gained the highest score.

“It was clear that the scoring failed to stand up to any level of scrutiny and the major concern of parents regarding their children being taught in cabins for at least two years with the huge financial cost being ignored. The major impact on the community use centre has also been ignored.

“It was also apparent there is a great deal of scaremongering by officers regarding the possibility of securing planning permission for a school at Station Park. The key driver for officers trying to push ahead with a refurbishment appears to be a desire to deliver a replacement school by August 2015.

“There is growing support for waiting a further year if that meant a new build school could be delivered in the correct location, and the hugely unpopular decant accommodation avoided.”

Former Madras rector Lindsay Mathieson, who heads a group of St Andrews University graduates, said:”We feel strongly that all concerned, including the parents and the public, have to be able to compare like with like to arrive at the optimum solution for the new Madras. For this reason it would be helpful to have much more information, sketch plans, site sizes, relationship of sites to the town and catchment, and so on.

“Yet, despite this absence of public information it is clear that Station Park commands wide support within the community as the best location for a new single-site school. Our soundings of local people, interests and organisations do not suggest deep-seated opposition to Station Park, in fact quite the reverse.

“We also get a strong sentiment that this is a decision that has to be the best one educationally and environmentally, not merely the most available or expedient. For this reason most people indicate that a short delay in order to assess all the options carefully would be wise.

“Having been disadvantaged by having a split-site school for nearly half-a-century this community seems willing to pay a small additional price to get it right for this and future generations.”

Councillor Douglas Chapman, chair of the Education and Children’s Services Committee, said:“We have done what we can to keep parents informed as fully as possible and to involve them at various stages of the process. They had the opportunity to influence the scoring system which officers have used and we have shared with them all the information which will go into the report to be put before councillors next month.

”“I believe the council has been open and transparent and that any changes in how officers evaluate each of the sites has been as a direct result of the views expressed by parents who attended the meeting in Tayport and those meetings held at Kilrymont.”