Dundee Education Convener Confirms that the SNP have no Plans for New Schools in the City Beyond Labour's Blueprint

In an article in the Dundee Courier on Wednesday,  Education Convener Liz Fordyce confirmed that the SNP have no plans for new schools in the City beyond the plans that Labour initiated during 2007/9 when they they led the coalition running the council.

During my time as Education Convener, I brought forward plans for a Council funded programme of school building which comprised six new schools. This included a replacement Kingspark School, a replacement Primary School in Whitfield and replacement joint campus Primary Schools in the West End and Lochee - Charleston. During this time, a feasibility study was also carried out on the refurbishment or the replacement of Harris Academy. 

This followed Labour's Scottish Government funded Public Private Partnership (PPP) school building programme that built 2 secondary schools (Grove and St Paul's) and six primary schools and nurseries (Claypotts Castle, Downfield, Craigowl, Rowantree, Fintry and St Andrew's). 

Liz Fordyce said:
"It was impossible for the council to commit to building more new schools beyond those already programmed because of the difficult financial climate."

Significantly, she did not mention her party's broken promises on a largely government funded school building. In their May 2007 manifesto for the Holyrood elections, the SNP claimed that they would 'match Labour's PPP programme brick for brick'. While the financial crisis began in summer 2009, it doesn't explain the two wasted years while her party running the Holyrood government and not commissioning one new school.

I think Liz Fordyce's statement extinguishes hope for the those schools waiting their turn for refurbishment or replacement in Dundee. In my own constituency in the Ferry, I think this puts paid to any hope of the SNP bringing forward plans for a refurbishment and extension of Barhill Primary School.


West End Schools' Progress - Slow, Quick-Quick Slow

At the Education Committee tonight, members will be asked to approve the tender for the building for the replacement West End Primary Schools. This will bring together St Joseph's Primary School and Park Place Primary School and Nursery School onto a shared campus on the former Logie Secondary School site on Blackness Road.

This is most welcome step in building new schools in the city. In two years time,
children in the catchment areas of both schools will enjoy state of the art school buildings and facilities that are fit for the 21st century. It also another important milestone in the Council financed school building programme which was initiated while Labour led the Council 2007/9. This was part of the capital plan which the Labour led administration bequeathed for the city. In the two years since the SNP have run the council, significantly they have not added any major school building projects to the Council's Capital Plan when it has been reviewed. Indeed, at the last meeting of the Education Committee, they refused to bring forward a feasibility study on extending and refurbishing Barnhill Primary School.

While progress has been significant with improving the West End primary schools, I wish we could see more progress with the replacement of Harris Academy. Unfortunately, this has been quagmired in the delays by the Scottish Government's Scottish Future's Trust. The SNP promised in May 2007 that they would match Labour's Public Private Partnership government funded school building programme 'brick for brick' and find a cheaper way to procure new schools. Unfortunately their recipe for cheaper procurement did not work. It seems that the Scottish Future's Trust is aptly named only ever talking about things that remain tantalisingly in the future. Readers may remember that Joe Fitzpatrick MSP Dundee West went on Newsnight Scotland and promised that Harris Academy would be rebuilt by the elections next month. Not only has this scheme not progressed even to a start on site, but the SNP's Scottish Future's Trust has yet to build even one school in Scotland let alone one in Dundee. If we are to avoid two tier set of school buildings in Dundee, we need a continuing programme of school building and school refurbishment in the city.

This is a time for parents and carers as well as teachers to distinguish between rhetoric and reality. They should be able to clearly see who is responsible for progress in school rebuilding in the West End; who is responsible for the quicks and who for the slows.


Barnhill Primary School Extension and Refurbishment Blocked

At the Education Committee on Monday 28 March, Councillor Ken Guild Leader of the Council and also a Ferry Councillor, led moves to block the extension and refurbishment of Barnhill Primary School.

I had formally
asked the Education Committee to agree to the preparation of a feasibility study for the extension and refurbishment of Barnhill Primary School with a report back to Committee by November 2011. This was supported by evidence of rising numbers of parental requests for places in P1, accommodation in the school under pressure, a nursery accommodated in huts and many more planning permissions pending for new homes in the school's catchment area. There was also £5 million already earmarked for Barnhill Primary School in the Council's capital plan for future development.

Despite the support of three out of the four Ferry Councillors, the
Education Convener Councillor Fordyce amendment was voted through for the Director of Education "to carry out an extensive review of the whole Schools and Nurseries Estate in Dundee. This will include all schools and nurseries in the West End of the City, Central and Eastern areas, schools North and South of the Kingsway and all of Broughty Ferry, in order to achieve a complete picture of how we can provide the best possible educational facilities for the children of Dundee." This review, we were told, will be brought back to the Education Committee by the end of November.

I shall continue to advocate the development of public services in Broughty Ferry so that schools and other services have the capacity to meet the needs of our rising population arising from new housing developments.