Disappointing Review of School Estate in Dundee leaves Many Questions

15 December 2011

At Monday's Education Committee meeting, the committee were asked to consider the Review of the School Estate in Dundee ( link)

In comments and questions last night I and my Labour Colleagues raised the following issues:

The important achievements in this report are as a direct result of the ambitious capital school building and school refurbishment programmes that Labour led councils between 2003 - 2009 brought forward.

Unfortunately the new SNP administration have dawdled since they took over leading the council in April 2009 and this shows up in this report.

Looking forward this report makes for disappointing reading.

It also is raises a number of questions and issues that I will be pursuing before and at the Education Committee.

This review is disappointing because its ambitions are so limited.

A vision of new or refurbished schools fit for the 21st century has been a mantra repeated by the former Director of Education and the Education Convener at every opening of a new school in the city since 2007.

Disappointingly, no priorities for new or refurbished schools are identified in this review.

That is put off for another year.

This review focuses on cyclical maintenance such as heating system replacement and auditing schools rolls where schools are running well under capacity.

With no immediate extension of the capital building programme, that I brought forward when I was Education Convener, we will soon find the Council's school building programme slowing down which will take years to crank up again.

It's disappointing therefore if you are a pupil or a teacher in a school which is waiting for a major refurbishment or replacement, apart from Harris Academy, because future plans are on hold.

It's disappointing news for parents and carers with children at the stand alone nursery schools because clearly the Council plans to downgrade them to nursery classes and move them into existing schools with space available.

It will be disappointing if you work in the building industry because as it stands this review won't sustain nearly as many construction jobs in the city as has been the case as the Labour commissioned schools have been built.

As to questions, here are my major ones:

While parent and carers would of course expect that a school would be in a reasonable physical condition and it would not be overcrowded, are square metres and school condition the only factors the Council should take into account?

For example, what about facilities such as access to a games hall?

While the report addresses under occupancy of school buildings, it does not identify over occupancy as an issue in the City.

Yet, Craigowl Primary School at 106.9% and Morgan Academy at 103.9% stand out.

Is this acceptable?

How will this be managed?

Barnhill Primary School in my ward is at 95.6% which is also busting at the seams.

Schools are not like hotels because a rising number of school age children in an area will take time to work their way up through a school.

More children wanting to enter at P1 can't be shoe horned into spare places in P7.

We need more information about the P1 entry figures over a period than this report provides.

The only answer provided in this report is to redraw catchment areas.

In March this year, I submitted a motion to ask that the £5 million pounds in the capital programme earmarked for the extension and refurbishment of Barnhill Primary School was brought forward and a feasibility study prepared.

That seems to have been forgotten and no figures are produced in relation to development pressures in the North East in Barnhill Primary School's catchment area where new housing developments are underway or have been planned.

So for marks out of 10, I would give this report five and a summary comment,

"Incomplete work, you should try harder to respond to all the questions. You also need a positive conclusion to your report."


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