School merger plan was ‘out of the blue’

Viewforth High School
Viewforth High School

A KIRKCALDY East councillor has slammed moves to consult on an option to close Viewforth High and merge it with Kirkcaldy High.

SNP Councillor Arthur Morrison used ‘call-in’ procedures to try to get the option dumped, claiming local people were “50 to one” against a merger idea.

But it will remain on the table, with executive spokesman for education, Councillor Bryan Poole, saying it is important to consult on all the options.

There have been long-term plans to replace Viewforth’s school building, which is in poor condition, but half the funding is due to come from developers, and with no house building taking place in the area, the Council decided to explore other options.

Proposals

Those put forward were to provide a new 1000 pupil high school or a new 3-18 primary and secondary school – both reliant on developer contributions – or to extend the current Kirkcaldy High and merge it with Viewforth on the one site.

But Cllr Morrison, speaking at the education, social and communities scrutiny committee, said the merger option had “come out of the blue and was not worthy of consideration”.

“It sets a dangerous precedent as neither Labour nor the SNP had the closure of Viewforth in its manifestos, and it undermines the potential for development, as it affects the desirability and the selling of houses in the area.

“Can we patch up Viewforth? Make do and mend until we ride out the storm (economic donwturn) provided the developers get the feeling there is a school in the vicinity that’s going to move things forward.”

Benefits

He argued the current, smaller school role was beneficial to pupils and there had been under-investment in Viewforth over the years, and suggested there was an ulterior motive behind this.

He added: “The school is not just a building - it has history and local links. It’s an extremely valuable institution.”

Cllr Poole said he was happy to consider the “patch up” proposal, but warned it could be 10-15 years, maybe longer, before contributions from developers are sufficient, and expressed concerns over the delivery of education in a building in such a poor condition and deemed unsuitable for purpose.

He wanted to give parents, pupils and the community the opportunity to comment on all the options to give them as wide a choice as possible, and stressed there was no favoured option, adding: “We will not foist anything on the people of Kirkcaldy East.”

The committee decided the consultation should include the merger option and that there should be a detailed look at Cllr Morrison’s refurbishment suggestion.

The consultation is likely to seek the views of the headteacher, teaching representatives, staff, parents and pupils, the parent council and parent councils of feeder primary schools, community council and the Council’s Kirkcaldy area committee, as well as other interested parties.