Do you want a new school?

Kirkland High School
Kirkland High School

LEVENMOUTH people were asked over two nights last week if the area’s proposed new secondary school passes the test.

Plans for a brand-new £40 million school to replace Kirkland and Buckhaven Highs, combining the catchment areas of both, were outlined at a pair of public meetings, hosted by both schools, as part of Fife Council’s statutory consultation process.

In two highly detailed question and answer sessions, education bosses expressed the vision for 21st century education in Levenmouth and the wider community benefits of a new school, while attempting to answer the questions of some and the concerns of others.

The new school, if it goes ahead, will have around 1800 pupils, from a single catchment area uniting all 10 feeder primaries, and be built on a 16.7-hectare site within the present Buckhaven High location. It has a projected delivery date of summer 2016.

East and Levenmouth area education head Joe Fitzpatrick said Levenmouth was “clearly on the up”, with £100m investment by Diageo, the Energy Park at Methil being 18 per cent ahead of schedule for occupancy, and new-build houses proposed in the Levenmouth Plan.

This was “hugely positive news” for the area, he added, and a new school, modern in all aspects with the current high quality of leadership and teaching skills, would ensure local young people were best equipped to take advantage of these investments.

Some audience members were concered that an 1800-pupil school in a socially deprived area would be simply too big and pupils’ attainment would suffer – a fact disputed by area education officer John McLaughlin.

Other people raised points during the evenings on suitable land analysis before building, sports facilities, the school’s name, who pays for uniforms, Kirkland-Buckhaven rivalry, the effect on pupils changing school halfway through their education.

Further comments included the perception that it was only Buckhaven being replaced, teachers’ jobs, traffic congestion, road safety, pedestrian access, maintenance, community use and various financial questions.

Kirkland head Ronnie Ross said it was an excellent opportunity for Levenmouth to provide the best possible education for its young people in the best possible location, which they deserved.

A more cautious David McClure, of Buckhaven High, said an 1800-pupil school, spawned by a merger during Curriculum for Excellence, would be a real challenge, although it was achieveable.

The so-called “invisible middle” – the percentage of pupils not quite among the top achievers and not quite among the bottom – would have to feel valued and included, he added, and success would depend on how cohesively pupils, staff and administrators could operate.

More thoughts can be seen on the Mail’s Facebook page – while people can still respond to the consultation before Friday, March 1.

You can visit your say and follow links to Levenmouth single secondary school, or complete the consultation forms available on request from any school or local office.

You can write to Fife Council at the Area Education Office, Rothesay House, Rothesay Place, Glenrothes KY7 5PQ.