Opening of Fintry Primary School – Questions for Keith Brown, Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning in the Scottish Government

Today (Thursday 28 January 2010) is primarily about about celebrating the opening of the new Fintry Primary School; the sixth 21st century primary school built by Labour's PPP school building programme in the city. The new school is built to barrier free design and accommodates the school, the language unit, which caters for pupils with speech, language and communication difficulties and the nursery. It has outstanding facilities for teaching and learning that will help staff deliver the new curriculum for excellence. I am sure that this school will serve the community of Fintry as a place for children to enjoy learning and celebrate their achievement and attainment. In addition, its provision of a Community Room and Sports Hall will mean that this school has the potential to develop into a resource for parents, carers and other adults to engage in community learning and recreation.
A celebration like this 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? Fintry 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 Scottish Government was to finance school building through a Public, Private Partnership (PPP). Had we listened to the carping of 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. If you live in a community in Dundee not benefiting from this programme, you may well be wondering what plans are in place for your local schools.
Today is also a good opportunity to ask questions of Keith Brown, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, who will be joining us for the official opening of Fintry Primary School. 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 was announced when Keith Brown was last it the city for the Education Department's Focus on Achievement Awards in September. Can Keith Brown confirm this is the extent of new investment in school building in Dundee by the SNP led government? Furthermore, will he confirm that work on Harris Academy is unlikely to begin before the May 2011 elections to the Scottish Parliament? Does he agree that, important though the rebuilding of Harris Academy will be, in practice this commitment will fall far short of matching Labour's PPP programme of two secondary schools and six primary schools? Finally, does he agree that his government's delay in getting on with a school building programme will consign many pupils and their teachers in Dundee to learning in worn out and unsuitable school buildings?