Axe hangs over several West Fife primary schools
THE axe is hanging over several primary schools in West Fife as a consultation exercise is launched over the future of education in the Kingdom.
With the local authority facing a funding crisis, the administration's chiefs believe tough decisions cannot be put off any longer.
Council leader Alex Rowley said, "Money spent on poor quality buildings and excess places is money down the drain."
He told the Press it was no good "salami slicing" the education budget and that the crunch time for schools could not be put off any longer.
Mr Rowley added, "This will mean taking some hard decisions. Some schools which have served communities in Fife for years may have to merge with others. But we cannot bury our heads in the sand and ignore the problems."
However, rather than simply announcing a hitlist of schools to close, the council has released statistics on all the Kingdom's schools giving the facts and figures on occupancy levels and condition of buildings and the amount of money being spent per pupil in each school.
Mr Rowley continued, "Fife Council faces a budget crisis over the next three years with finance officials advising that the gap between the cost of continuing with current services and increasing demands will be £70 million.
"This means that every area of budget will need to be scrutinised and every penny needs to be well spent.
"In Fife we know that our children are our future and we understand that the greatest gift we can give every young person is a high-quality education.
"Our children and young people need to experience a curriculum which is well matched to their interests, their potential and their ambitions.
"To maximise their opportunities for learning, they need the support of dedicated teachers who are well-supported and highly valued.
"But our school estate has been letting us down. We spend too much of our limited budget on patching up worn-out buildings and on surplus school places.
"On a few of our primary school places we spend as much as five times as we do on others.
"In addition, Fife has more than 16,000 spare places in its schools and yet thousands of children learn in poor conditions.
"It would be irresponsible not to examine this and against a background of massive cuts it becomes a necessity in order to protect the quality of education.
"We need to run our school buildings more efficiently. We need to have schools which are closely matched to current and future needs, which provide a stimulating learning environment and which we can afford to maintain to the standards parents expect.
"Money spent on poor-quality buildings and excess places is money down the drain.
"It is money which could be spent in learning and teaching, invested in our children's and grandchildren's futures.
"The administration wants to see local schools of the right size, in the right place and in the right condition.
"We are requesting that the executive director of education brings forward a report as soon as possible on how these long-term problems with our school estate might be addressed, to include recommendations for ensuring that our school provision is efficient, effective and sustainable.
"The executive member for education, children, young people and families, Bryan Poole, and I are writing to every school parent council member and every headteacher inviting them to a meeting where we will be setting out issues and challenges and inviting them to become involved in this review.
"Widespread consultation will take place on all proposals being brought forward in this review."
There are some glaring variations in the cost-per-pupil ratio at schools across Fife.
At Kings Road Primary School in Rosyth the cost per pupil is £2980, while the figure is £17,364 at Dunino Primary School in the East Neuk which has just 10 pupils and an occupancy rate of 29 per cent.
Some West Fife schools are also suffering from a sparsity of pupils. Crombie Primary has just 18 pupils, an occupancy level of 36 per cent, resulting in a cost per pupil of £11,889. Wellwood Primary has just 31 pupils, an occupancy level of 33 per cent and both the condition of the building and its suitability are both rated C, which equates to 'poor'.
In Dunfermline, Pitreavie Primary has an occupancy rate of 58 per cent and its condition is also rated as C.
Camdean Primary School is another building rated 'poor' at C and it has an occupancy rate of 65 per cent.
Out in the villages, Culross Primary has a 52 per cent occupancy level and the school condition is B, while Limekilns Primary's occupancy figure is 53 per cent.
Masterton Primary has an occupancy rate of 99 per cent while the newest school, Carnegie, has a roll of 222 and occupancy level of just 51 per cent,
Duloch has an occupancy rate of 86 per cent while Lynburn Primary is on 69 per cent.
Pitcorthie Primary has a high occupancy level at 94 per cent but the building's condition is down at C.
St Columba's has the highest occupancy rate of West Fife's high schools on 96 per cent and a cost per pupil of £4851.
The neighbouring Woodmill High, where the occupancy level is 74 per cent, has a cost per pupil of £6104.
Dunfermline High (1549 roll) and Queen Anne High (1605) both have occupancy levels of 89 per cent and pupil costs of £4399 and £4320 respectively.
Inverkeithing High has a roll of 1323, an occupancy rate of 85 per cent and a pupil cost of £4611.
Tulliallan Primary has 170 pupils and an occupancy level of just 35 per cent.
However, New Gilston Primary, in rural east Fife, has only five pupils, capacity for 42, making a 12 per cent occupancy rate at a cost of £11,592 per pupil.
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Sep 19, 19:28
I thought Masterton and Duloch are PPI, so you want as full as school as possible due to the excessive costs of PPI for the education dept - it matters less that Pitreavie, Pitcorthie or Carnegie are less full as the council owns those school buildings.
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