What Next After PPP Primary Schools in Dundee?

A celebration like the official opening of Rowantree Primary School today, is also a time to look back and look forward. How did we get here? How are we ensuring that more communities in Dundee can also celebrate the opening of their replacement new or refurbished Primary School? Rowantree Primary School could not have been built without the foresight and commitment of the Labour led administration of Dundee City Council. The form of funding available from the then Scottish Government was to finance school building through a Public, Private Partnership (PPP). Had we listened to the then Opposition SNP Councillors in Dundee, no progress would have been made and this school and the other five Primary Schools and two New Secondary Schools in our city would not have been built. While we were waiting for the successor school building programme from the SNP government in Hoyrood, we did not sit back on our laurels. We commissioned the building of a number of schools using prudential borrowing:
  • Replacement Kingspark School for pupils who have learning difficulties (nearing completion on a new site on Clepington Road);
  • Replacement school for Whitfield (detailed design work underway);
  • Replacement twin campus schools for Dundee West End and
  • Replacement twin campus schools (2) for Lochee Charleston.
    (Note: both sets of twin campus schools were progressed by the Labour led Administration of the Council; they are now on pause awaiting Government decisions about the sites selected prior to consideration of planning applications and detailed design work)
Parents and carers living in communities in Dundee not benefiting from these school building programmes, may well be wondering what plans are in place for their local schools. Now the SNP run both the government in Edinburgh and the Council in Dundee, this is a pertinent question for Liz Fordyce, Convener of Education in the city and Mike Russell, the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning in Edinburgh. In the May 2007 elections for the Scottish Parliament and Local Councils, the SNP promised to match Labour's PPP programme brick for brick. Furthermore, they claimed that they would introduce a cheaper way of financing school building under the auspices of the Scottish Futures Trust (SFT). After a delay of over two years finding out what detractors forecast; that the SFT wouldn't work, a decision to partly fund the refurbishment of Harris Academy in Dundee with an anticipated start on site in 2012/13 was announced in Edinburgh at the end of September. This is I think likely to be the extent of new investment in school building in Dundee by the SNP led Scottish Government 2007-11. A slow down in school building in Dundee will have serious consequences. Firstly, and most obviously it will lead to more pupils and teachers consigned to learning in existing school buildings some of which were not designed for the twentieth century let alone the twenty first century. Secondly, it will also condemn many construction workers in Dundee to unemployment. I have asked the Liz Fordyce, the Education Convener about her ambitions for commissioning new schools in Dundee. At the last meeting of the Education Committee, she was unwilling to reply to my question about her school building legacy in Dundee. I think she was loathe to admit that she will be presiding over another SNP failure to deliver on their electoral promises about schools.”