Smaller schools may have to close

Published: 9 Dec 2011 09:0019 comments

A SENIOR councillor has admitted schools in West Fife may have to shut to help Fife Council save £90 million by 2015.

A SENIOR councillor has admitted schools in West Fife may have to shut to help Fife Council save £90 million by 2015.

The desperate need to slash costs places a question mark over small village schools, those well below capacity or with dilapidated older buildings.

Fife Council currently runs 19 high schools and 143 primary schools but Douglas Chapman said they were prepared to make "unpopular decisions".

The chair of the education and children's services committee said firm proposals are at least a year away and pupils' education must not suffer.

But change looks inevitable.

Education may have to find up to £27 million in savings over three years and Councillor Chapman said, "We want to try and maintain the good record we've set in education with high levels of attainment, achievement and good behaviour.

"It's all heading in the right direction but it's how we maintain that with a huge cut in the budget.

"It's a major undertaking to maintain the schools we've got and running two schools that are half-full, especially if just a short distance apart, is not good economics."

He continued, "It may be the better investment is to spend it in one school and ask pupils to go there.

"Or, if the community were up for it, to consider closing two older schools and building one new school.

"It's not just about closing schools to make a saving, it has to be in the best interests of the pupils and learners."

Councillor Chapman said investment in education was at an all-time high in Fife with £126 million invested in building new schools and a further £6 million spent over the last three years maintaining the current buildings.

But the scale of the cuts - having already made sizeable cuts in recent years - means they're having to think the unthinkable.

Councillor Chapman said, "Probably one of the most difficult things is to try and close a school as parents become very worried about the future of their child's education.

"That's why, at the moment, what we're trying to do is look at the buildings we do have, look at the capacity and age of the building.

"We won't accept a lowering of education standards but how we then make the savings is the real crux of the problem."

The SNP councillor acknowledged that the very possibility of school closures would be highly controversial and give opposition politicians plenty of ammunition to attck the SNP/Lib Dem council administration.

But he said, "There are elections in May but my impression is that the opposition parties are thinking along the same lines.

"We'll see how they react but even if there's a different administration after the election, they will face the same problem and have to look at this too.

"Anyone that is critical, I would ask 'what's your alternative?'.

"We are fast running out of alternatives because of the scale of the cuts."

Councillor Chapman continued, "The bottom line is people are quite happy to discuss these measures until it affects them directly, where it's their school or community centre.

"Then there's a campaign on to try and save it. We need to get beyond that over the next two-to-three years.

"My main concern is how we take the communities with us and we need a mature discussion about what's ahead.

"There are a number of options but we need them to buy into it or we'll just be at each other's throats."

Councillor Chapman said education and social work budgets had been spared from the worst cuts in the past and that the council would have to make big savings in other departments too.

"Even where we have a need to provide a service by law we need to look at how we can deliver that service in a different, more efficient way," he said.

And he added, "Considering efficiencies and making radical changes in the way we do things shows we're taking our financial situation seriously, facing up to the pressures and are prepared to make difficult and perhaps unpopular decisions to keep educational standards high.

"We welcome serious debate on changing education services to meet modern, challenging times but our focus needs to remain on development and care for children and we owe it to every child in Fife to get it right."

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  • DunfermlineEast
    137 posts
    Dec 9, 10:03
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    Make it a provision in Shepherd Offshore to provide space for a secondary school, then merge St Colomba and Woodmill into one campus there. That would save hundreds of thousands of pounds and FC will have land to sell on.

    Recommend?   Yes 22     No 48

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  • logster
    28 posts
    Dec 9, 23:15
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    Mr Chapman was it not a SNP manifesto pledge to cut class sizes to 18,if this was the case we would be recruiting more teachers for the West Fife Village schools not looking to close them.You have also mentioned the figure of £126 million invested in fife schools if you take into account the investment from the previous Labour Government that would be correct not investment by the SNP your figures don't tie up.How do you plan to maintain the good record in education you claim to have made when we have lost over 3000 teaching posts throughout Scotland under this SNP administration.

    The cuts you intend to make are by far worse than that from previous Tory Governments in Westminster is this what being independent is all about.

    Recommend?   Yes 17     No 4

  • DBResident
    56 posts
    Dec 10, 11:42
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    how about starting saving money the easy way. All staff pay, including the town clerk to be reduced to a maximum of £50k - no pension provision for them,

    Then how about getting all council employees and councillors to reapply for their jobs. Then successful applicant sign a contract with a single clause

    "I acknowledge that I am a public servant, employed by the council to SERVE the public"

    Recommend?   Yes 66     No 47

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  • Blackadder
    332 posts
    Dec 10, 16:10
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    Just repeats again tonight on channel triskell.

    Recommend?   Yes 35     No 63

  • Blackadder
    332 posts
    Dec 10, 18:50
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    Sorry DBResident, but who do the private sector serve in their profession, non paying royalty? I was under the impression that if I went into, say, Debenhams that the staff were there to serve me. Has Amazon become self service now, collect your own off the shelves at the new depot? Or have I missed something somewhere?

    Recommend?   Yes 47     No 69

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  • mikeintheknow
    98 posts
    Dec 11, 13:57
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    Bang goes the ideas of West Fife high school, Fife has some of the biggest high schools in Scotland, also Didn't the council already try this stupid idea before? remember Blacklaw schools was shut and there sold off 3rd duloch school land? Then there had spend more money to get the land back and now the schools has 3 P1 class with more that 18 in each.

    Recommend?   Yes 1     No 1

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  • DBResident
    56 posts
    Dec 12, 09:52
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    Blackadder, you do yourself and your wit a great diservice. Of course if you go to Debenhams and do not like the attitude of the staff or the service they provide to you, you are able to walk away and spend your money elsewhere. With the council of course you have to pay and put up with any inferior service and more than liley have to kowtow to the system in order to get what you have already paid for. The issue is one of choice and service.

    Recommend?   Yes 62     No 36

  • BobTheBuilder
    111 posts
    Dec 12, 17:05
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    DBResident, an element of choice still exists within public service provision. If you don't like your kids school, you can move them. If you don't like Dalgety Bay library, you go to Inverkeithing. If you don't like The Beacon pool, you go to Carnegie (when it opens). Like all things, you have to put your money where your mouth is.

    Probably the only choice you don't have is who collects your bins. The issue of choice and service applies equally to any business or service - some are very focussed on their customers, whilst others are only interested in fleecing the customers to pay for the family holiday.

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  • DunfermlineEast
    137 posts
    Dec 12, 19:40
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    The public sector is non-profit making (mainly). So it is difficult to say if privatising any public services into private hands will make them more efficient or not. Creating a more pay as you use type of service would force the public sector to be more efficient though, as more or less money will be through popular/unpopular used services. No one complains about paying extra money to use the swimming pool or paying money for planning applications for example. This would reduce overmanning of lesser used services and allowing overused services to increase its staffing.

    Recommend?   Yes 31     No 45

  • BobTheBuilder
    111 posts
    Dec 12, 20:49
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    Is that not part of the mandate of public services - to be not for profit?

    I suspect that creating a 'pay as you use' service would mean that many of those that need to use the services cannot then afford to, those that have no need to won't either, so ultimately they will either retrench to a state where they cannot meet demand, or disappear all together.

    The one good thing about all that is that the take, take, take brigade may finally get a flavour of how much all these services actually cost to provide, and once paying for their social worker or whatever else out of their own pocket - or benefits - may appreciate their provision a little more. Well, we can but hope....

    Recommend?   Yes 31     No 45

  • professortv
    3 posts
    Dec 12, 23:04
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    If £27 millions has to be saved from the education budget, resulting in schools closing down, why has £40 millions been spent replacing one school, Dunfermline High, with an existing facility? Does this effectively mean £40 million has been transferred from the education budget to the construction industry? Would £5 millions repairing the school not have been more sensible? It is a relatively modern school built in 1939.

    Recommend?   Yes 10     No 1

  • DBResident
    56 posts
    Dec 13, 09:49
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    Bob -the choice you refer to is Hobsons Choice - same provider. My original comment referred to easy savings that can be made by realigning salaries and terms and conditions of council staff (and essentially higher paid staff) to reflect the real world. How much do we pay the Chief Exec and all the other "directors" - add on the pensions liabilities and other costs (offices PAs, cars, foreign travel etc) and it is easy to see that they delivery little in return for a huge expense. I would contend that they delivery poor value for money - if they were worth their overinflated packages then they would be able to manage the staff of thousands to deliver a comparable service to that we see in the private sector. That they don't is evident. That they run continual deficits and it is always someone else's fault speaks volumes to me and many others

    Recommend?   Yes 63     No 34

  • Blackadder
    332 posts
    Dec 13, 15:02
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    You are being unfair to a whole section of the workforce here. Those within the council on £50k plus are a small proportion of employees. Are you aware that at some levels within Fife Council staff have already had to apply for their own jobs? Or that restructuring has meant that some employees have been forced into a lower grade and had their hours forcibly reduced by a quarter in some instances.

    The same service of course has to be maintained by fewer staff, working shorter hours for less money. And you wonder why quality suffers. Question the ability of those who are responsible by all means, but you equally do yourself a disservice by belittling all employees within the council.

    Recommend?   Yes 35     No 65

  • BobTheBuilder
    111 posts
    Dec 13, 17:49
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    You are, of course, correct DBResident - those at the top cost the earth but directly do very little. It's a shame therefore that you seem to group all public sector workers together. With 'delegation' being the buzzword of the moment, I'm sure fewer chiefs would not be missed anyway.

    Lets come back to that old chestnut of comparable service in the private sector. I don't want to go down the name and shame route, but I could list several private companies whose grasp on nepotism is so tight that the customer is purely incidental. In any sector of employment, in any industry, there will be companies with a tight control of their costs, and others with fag-packet accounting and business plans. Hobson's Choice exists in the private sector too.

    Recommend?   Yes 32     No 49

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  • Blackadder
    332 posts
    Dec 14, 08:30
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    Your clicking fingers must be sore this morning triskell. Still nothing but repeats on though.

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  • DBResident
    56 posts
    Dec 14, 11:40
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    Blackadder/Bob - I am sorry not to have been clearer - I lambast the higher paid "Directors" Chrief Execs etc but do, beleieve it or not, have great support for the majority of public sector workers. There might be too many of them, but that is not their fault. If, by way of example, the Chief Exec is on £150k pa, + pension laibility from us of say £25k, add on a PA on £30k + their pension, they have a office staff of say 3 on £20k each + pension - add on the office space say 1,000 sq ft at £15 per foot - £15k pa plus heating lighting furniture, cleaning, consumables, decoration etc say another £20k pa. A car and driver= £40k, travel and other "expenses" say £10k.

    This adds up to around £400k per annum - and that one Chief exec delivers what? It sure aint £400ks worth of service. It would take around 250 average council taxes to cover these costs alone - pure waste.

    There are many very competent able and loyal middle level employees who would love the autonomy of getting on with their jobs without the drip down interference from their masters. The saving are potentially collosall and the risk of seeing a fall off in service is negligable.

    The problem is that they wont vote for Christmas.

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  • BobTheBuilder
    111 posts
    Dec 14, 19:25
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    I couldn't have put that better myself, DBResident!

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  • Blackadder
    332 posts
    Dec 15, 07:50
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    Poor poor triskell. Such an ugly trait jealousy.

    Recommend?   Yes 14     No 25

  • Blackadder
    332 posts
    Dec 15, 13:19
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    Your only contribution not removed is your clicking. Poor lonely triskell.

    Recommend?   Yes 11     No 21

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