D-day looms for school closures

SCHOOLS REVIEW: Councillor Bryan Poole says the Council will listen to the views of the public on proposals to close schools in Fife.
SCHOOLS REVIEW: Councillor Bryan Poole says the Council will listen to the views of the public on proposals to close schools in Fife.

PARENTS in Fife will find out in March which schools the Council plans to close.

A review of the entire schools estate - including primary and secondary schools, nurseries, special schools and behaviour support units - is being carried out with the aim of reducing some of the 16,000 surplus places.

This will free up funds currently being spent on the upkeep of buildings which are not being fully utilised, with some of the savings being re-invested in improving children’s education.

The Council’s executive committee this week agreed a timetable for the publication of “specific proposals” and statutory consultations with the public prior to any closures.

Councillor Bryan Poole, executive spokesman for education, said: “The consultation process underlines our commitment to listening to the views of everyone affected by the review, and includes opportunities for people to make their views known.

“With the budget challenge we face over the next three years we have to ensure money is being directed at school buildings which are fit for purpose now and in the future, not at funding surplus school places and maintaining failing buildings.

“The introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence is bringing an exciting new direction for learning and teaching and we owe it to staff and pupils to help make sure they have a quality education experience.”

A number of factors will be used to assess the schools, including the condition and suitability of the buildings, and the occupancy levels.

The review aims to ensure all children in Fife are educated in A or B rated buildings for condition and suitability. According to the Council’s statistics, in the Kirkcaldy area, only Burntisland and Auchtertool primaries, and Viewforth High, have ratings below that standard, and there are already plans or proposals to replace Burntisland and Viewforth.

The Council is also aiming for occupancy levels of between 80 and 100 per cent, with a minimum of 60 per cent. Auchtertool and Kirkcaldy North primaries, and Viewforth High are currently below the minimum level.

However, that doesn’t mean any of these schools will be earmarked for closure.

Louise Playford, service manager (schools estate), said: “Other factors being considered include proximity to other schools, pupil travel distances and times, relationship to nursery and other educational establishments, and effects on secondary school catchments.

“Some special circumstances are also considered as part of the review, for example after-school clubs, schools operating reduced class sizes and other community use of the school.”

Special consideration will also be given to rural schools, taking into account the likely effect on the local community and the increased travelling for pupils.

Meetings with parent councils are planned for next month to set out the overall position and focus on local information which will be taken into account, such as surplus places, demographic trends and potential large-scale house building.

No specific proposals will be available at these meetings. These will be revealed for the first time at the executive committee’s meeting on March 26.

Public consultations on the specific proposals will take place in May and June, and Scottish Government ministers will also be involved in the process, with the consent for any closures not expected until December.