Former chairman of North East Fife District Council, Clive Sneddon, has expressed concern at the “insensitive” response by Fife Council to the views of Education Scotland on the former’s proposal to remodel and extend the Kilrymont campus into a new £40 million single-site secondary school in St Andrews.
His comments follow publication of the council’s detailed report on the three month consultation of its plans for a new school, including the reponse of HM inspectors, who stress that the council must reflect on the level of opposition to the Kilrymont proposal and determine how it intends to address the issues raised.
Dr Sneddon said: “There is a long-standing convention that officials should be objective and politically neutral in analysing an issue. Education Scotland has respected that convention, accepted assurances from Fife Council that the new facilities would be fit for purpose, and asked the council to address local concerns by working with parents and young people.
“Since parents and the local community on the one hand and young people on the other differ in their views of what is possible at Kilrymont, this presents a political problem which will require input from elected councillors, and some objective input from officials.
“Unfortunately, in reporting to the next education and children’s services committee, officials have taken the political stance of defending the Kilrymont proposal against allcomers. This is not their job, and they should never have thought that it was.”
Dr Sneddon explained that St Andrews Community Council, which has called for time to be taken for a proper evaluation of the overall situation, had set the example in a recent newsletter by its measured setting out of the pros and cons of the main options.
He continued: “In contrast, council officials have chosen to treat all current possibilities as ‘sub-optimal,’ to point to differences of public opinion on those sites officials have considered, and to assert the officer group view that every other site represented a greater risk of failure than redeveloping Kilrymont. This can only be a prelude to insisting that the next council implements the officials’ Kilrymont scheme.”
Dr Sneddon maintained that this agenda was confirmed by the rejection, from a consultation process which did not have to identify other sites, of the most frequently mentioned alternative, a two-school option at the Tay bridgehead and St Andrews, which is wrongly dismissed as a ‘return’ to the status quo.
He added: “The proposal would address the concerns expressed about traffic, the green agenda and the transitional arrangements, and would, in a second phase, allow a smaller school in St Andrews to replace entirely the 1960s buildings on South Street.
“This phasing allows any additional capital cost to be absorbed, while consequential costs of paying down the loan can be met from savings on bussing, since overall pupils will have a shorter distance to travel. There are many schools in Fife, not least Waid, smaller than Madras, and they have the flexibility to cover the curriculum their pupils require.
“The challenge posed by the officials’ response is now to prospective councillors. They must pledge to respect the outcome of the consultation and vote against the Kilrymont proposal, and to confirm that they will instruct an objective appraisal of all possible solutions to the two-site Madras College and the requirements of the Curriculum for Excellence.
“Only such councillors will be able to work with parents, young people and the local community to meet the political challenge identified by Education Scotland.”