Rallying call sounded for all-new Madras College

Madras College South Street viewed through Blackfriars Chapel.
Madras College South Street viewed through Blackfriars Chapel.

NOW is the time for parents of future Madras College pupils, and the wider community, to make their voices heard and ensure they get the single-site secondary school in St Andrews that the children of the area deserve.

That’s the rallying call from supporters of the New Build, No Rebuild! Madras Action Group, who launched their campaign this week at an open meeting.

They are adamant that the refurbishment of the Kilrymont building - it houses the junior school - should not be an option considered by Fife Council when it meets next month to make a final decision on the site of the new £40 million development.

They insist that any new school should be a “new build” rather than the refurbishment of Kilrymont which, they maintain, appears to be the option favoured by the local authority.

Speaking following the public meeting, group member Brian Thomson told the Citizen that - during a general discussion - there was strong consensus that the Kilrymont refurbishment is not acceptable.

He added ”In particular, those attending were concerned about restrictions imposed by the existing building’s structure, securing best value for money, and the major disruption to pupils and users of the community use centre during the two-year refurbishment period.”

Worries were also voiced about the unsuitability of Kilrymont even for a new build, as it is on the wrong side of St Andrews to serve the wider school catchment, and too small for the size of school proposed.

“Either a refurbishment or a new build at Kilrymont would, in effect, result in retaining a split-site school, as pupils would need to be bussed the two miles to Station Park for sports activities,” he

The group yesterday launched a petition demanding a new build school, and it is intended that it will be presented to the meeting of the Education and Children’s Services Committee on November 10 being held to decide on which of the 11 options will be selected.

Fellow group member Mrs Chris Wood added: ”It is clear that there is growing support for a new build Madras College. Time, however, is now of the essence, and we only have five weeks to prevent Fife Council making the decision to progress with the refurbishment of Kilrymont.

“I would urge everyone who wishes to see a new build state-of-the-art Madras College to write to both their local councillors and those who are members of the council committee, and sign the petition.”

Anyone wishing to assist the group, or find out more information about the campaign, should contact Chris Wood at cwood0@hotmail.com or Brian Thomson at brthomson@talktalk.net.

Meanwhile, there will be no change of heart by St Andrews University over its decision to withdraw from the joint project with Fife Council to develop a new school.

That was the clear message from university principal and vice-chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, to a delegation of alumni of the institution who met with her for talks following the recent much publicised demise of the historic partnership - which would have seen the building of a single-site school on land it owned.

Any lingering hopes that negotiations would resume or the university would make a dramatic u-turn have now ended.

The St Andrews graduates had sought discussions with Professor Richardson about the withdrawal by the university from negotiations with the local authority.

The quartet of former Madras rector Lindsay Matheson, Fife Councillor Donald Macgregor, a former languages teacher at the school, Mrs Julie Poole - whose children were all educated at the school - aWnd Dr Derek Barrie, a retired teacher, initially wrote to the principal asking for the meeting.

A fifth signatory to the approach was Dr Ian Gilroy, another former rector of Madras, who served on the University Court for 10 years but, sadly, passed away recently.

Mr Matheson said the group had expressed their “extreme disappointment” at the collapse of the negotiations with Fife Council for a new school.

He added: ”We also conveyed concerns at the potential damage that might take place to town and gown relationships within the wider community.

“Lastly, we asked Professor Richardson if there was any hope that the negotiations with Fife Council might be restarted, since there had been such high initial expectations of the project from all interested parties.

“The principal could see no prospect of restarting the negotiations, and was only able to echo the group’s feeling of deep regret about the failure of this ambitious project and to emphasise the importance to the university and its staff of a modern purpose-built secondary school being created to replace the unsatisfactory split-site arrangement that had been in place since 1963.”