Councillors sign off plans to relocate two Fife high schools
Another step has been taken along the long road leading to Dunfermline's new super-campus with the agreement of the plan to relocate two high schools.
Statutory consultation on moving St Columba's RC and Woodmill High Schools to Dunfermline Learning Campus is now complete and councillors have signed off on the detailed proposals for the two new-builds.
A total of 70 responses were submitted by parents, carers, staff and other locals interested in the future of the schools. In all, 71.4% of responses were supportive of the move.
Shelagh McLean, head of education and children's services, said: "The ambition remains to have schools that are fit for purpose for pupils now and in the future, with improved suitability, condition and accessibility of buildings and a better educational experience for all our young people."
Councillors on Fife's education and children's services sub-committee reviewed a 185-page paper earlier this week that detailed the views of the public and agencies such as national inspectorate Education Scotland.
Parents were consulted via virtual online drop-in sessions, rather than in person, which is thought by education chiefs to be the reason why attendance was so low.
Their greatest concerns are the potential risk associated with mixing younger secondary-age pupils with older adults taking courses at Fife College and the danger of losing St Columba's strong Roman Catholic identity.
Fife Council has sought to allay those fears, insisting that safeguarding youngsters was "of paramount importance". Senior teachers will be present during lunch and break times to ensure children are safe, and while the college building is on the same campus as the new schools it is distinct from them.
Community use of the school's sports facilities will only occur outside of normal teaching times. The council has also detailed on several occasions how it is consulting with the Diocese of St Andrews and Edinburgh to ensure St Columba's meets the standards expected of Roman Catholic schools in terms of identity and the facilities on offer.
The local authority said: "Each school will have its own classrooms and facilities, through which, for St Columba’s RC High School, the Catholic identity will be evident."
Sandy McIntosh, headteacher at Woodmill, said: "I'm genuinely excited about the opportunities this will create for our younger people.
"We're trying to create a campus that protects the strong identities of both schools. That's a critical part of the project."
Inspectors at Education Scotland is also satisfied that adequate safeguarding will be in place.
The formal approval of the relocation of the schools is just the latest step in the long process that leads to the opening of the Dunfermline Learning Campus in summer 2024.
Councillors on various Fife committees have, in recent weeks, signed off on the outline business case needed to find the funding for the school and access roads into the former Freescale and Hyundai site north of Dunfermline's Amazon warehouse.
Work on the southern access road is underway after its plans were signed off in July.
The detailed planning application is expected to be submitted sometime in spring next year.