A NEW high school is needed in West Fife as capacity at all four secondary schools in Dunfermline will be “exceeded in the early 2020s”.

With just a few years until Dunfermline, Queen Anne, St Columba’s and Woodmill are full, the clock is ticking on securing the estimated £40-50 million cost and determining a location for a new secondary.

FIVE new primary schools will also be needed to cope with the 7,000 new homes set for the town alone over the next decade.

Fife Council’s Shelagh McLean, head of service, said: “For secondary education provision in Dunfermline, whilst some of the future development can be accommodated within the available capacity, the planning capacity across the existing Dunfermline schools will be exceeded in the early 2020s.

“Therefore, a new secondary school is required to make proposed development acceptable.

“This is required to accommodate the additional, projected secondary pupils that will result as a direct consequence of the proposed development and be living within the catchments of the three Dunfermline non-denominational schools.”

Pressure on classroom places is being driven by housebuilding and, across Dunfermline and West Fife as a whole, the Scottish Government has determined that more than 18,000 new homes will be needed by 2026.

However, Fife Council appears to be in limbo until Holyrood comes up with the money to fund new and replacement schools. Despite the pressing need, it’s not yet clear where a new high school would go or when it would open.

The council is also seeking funds to replace the crumbling and outdated high school buildings at Inverkeithing, St Columba’s and Woodmill, as well as two in Glenrothes.

The Press highlighted these issues when we launched our Action for Schools campaign in January last year. We called on parents, teachers, politicians, councillors, the council and the Scottish Government to act immediately to tackle the problems and ensure our kids continue to receive the best education they possibly can.

Twelve months on and little has changed. The council has botched the proposed catchment changes to alleviate capacity problems at Woodmill and the Scottish Government has not committed any more money for new or replacement schools.

The council has set aside £50m towards the estimated £150m cost of replacing the five high schools, and has drawn up plans, but needs the Scottish Government to provide the remaining funding and set out the criteria on which money will be allocated.

While Fife did well out of the previous Schools for the Future programme, receiving £57m for three high schools in East Fife, the council has been waiting for a year to find out when the next round of government funding will be.

Ms McLean said: “We work closely with colleagues in planning to ensure that education requirements are fully taken into consideration within any new development applications.

“In the past, the Scottish Government has funded two-thirds of the cost of major new schools programmes in Fife, so on that basis, £50m from the council’s own capital investment plan has been allocated towards any future programme in the hope that further funding will be made available from the government.

"The secondary schools identified as priorities for any future investment are Inverkeithing, Woodmill, St Columba’s, Glenwood and Glenrothes.

“Therefore, the allocation of the £50m is, at this point, flexible to take best advantage of whatever streams of funding and criteria come forward from the Scottish Government.”

The £1.8 billion in the Schools for the Future programme was fully allocated and, last February, a spokesperson told the Press the government was “currently developing proposals for further investment in school buildings”.

But nothing has happened since and Ms McLean said: “At this point, we have no timescale for any streams of funding for which we could submit any project.”

Council leaders David Alexander and David Ross say they expect an announcement next month but the delay has meant little or no progress on new and replacement high schools – while housebuilding continues and capacity issues loom larger.