The new Labour led coalition on Dumfries and Galloway Council are set to drop plans by the previous administration for a controversial new Senior School at the Crichton in Dumfries and pursue a radical new “emerging” option.
The plans for the new option were set out at a meeting with Parent Council representatives in Dumfries last week and will be the subject of discussion at a public meeting hosted by Nithsdale Area Committee at Dumfries High School on 27 November.
In July the Council’s Education Committee agreed to draw up a business plan for two options for the future of secondary schools in Dumfries. Option one would have seen the existing four secondary schools refurbished and all secondary pupils would be able to attend (i.e. S1-S6, pupils aged 12 to 18) with secondary and primary working more closely together.
Option Two would have seen the building of a new Senior Phase School in Crichton area for all S4-6 (pupils aged 14/15 to 18) in Dumfries, with the existing four secondary schools being downgraded to S1-S3 (pupils aged 12-14/15).
However, at the meeting with Parent Councils the new Chair of Education, Jeff Leaver told parents that the new administration backed in principal a radical new “emerging” alternative that was being drawn up and would be included in the business plan coming to the Council’s Education Committee in December.
The new option would see a new build Maxwelltown High School, a new build Dumfries High School and the refurbishment of Dumfries Academy and St Joseph’s College. The four schools would remain full S1 to S6 . However, in addition the radical new plan would see the building of a Learning Hub in Dumfries. This new facility would support delivery of more specialist, higher academic and vocational studies, and could be accessed by all schools. In addition, the option would be offered to older primary schools near existing secondary schools to be re-located on the same campus as the secondary school, to take advantage of new facilities in either the new builds or refurbished secondaries. This however would be subject to parents supporting such a move.
Chair of Education Jeff Leaver said, “It is no secret that the Labour Group, just like local parents and teachers, had serious concerns over the proposal to build a new Senior School at the Crichton. The plan was dubbed a “super school” but the reality is we actually already have four super schools in the town with high attainment levels. The question is how do we build on this to meet the huge challenges we face in preparing our young people for the world of work. That isn’t just about school buildings, although they are in a poor condition in Dumfries. It is about developing a model of education that is fit for the future. In principal the new administration back an emerging option that will see a number of new builds to Maxwelltown High School and Dumfries High School , which will reduce running costs, and the refurbishment of the Academy and St Joseph’s. These schools would remain S1 to S6, however in addition, in order to really develop vocational training and provide proper choice in advanced highers, we would develop a centrally based learning hub that all schools could tap into. There would be the option, if parents wish, to see some of the existing local primary schools collocated on the same campus as secondary schools so they can benefit from some of the exciting new facilities that would be developed and also to ease the transition between primary and secondary which can be a real issue. However, this is just part of the vision of making Dumfries a Learning Town and the proposals will also ensure that there far closer links between schools and the community and local businesses. We will discussing the proposals in detail with the Scottish Education Minister and are committed to consulting closely with parents because ultimately. We believe the plans are radical, but sensible, meeting the desire of the Scottish Government to meet the educational needs of the 21st century”.