HIGH SCHOOL places could be decided by ballot after councillors agreed to delay a decision on catchment areas until next year.

Members of Fife Council’s education and children service’s committee were told on Tuesday that the earliest for any changes to be implemented is August 2019.

The decision means pupils on the edge of their catchment area will be those most at risk of being affected and will face a lottery to decide what school they attend.

Education chiefs had been sent back to the drawing board last month after councillors threw out their proposals for proposed changes to secondary school catchment areas in Dunfermline.

They instead asked for an alternative proposal paper which would look at re-zoning addresses within the Tulliallan, Torryburn, Limekilns, Canmore, Pitreavie and Commercial Primary catchment areas only.

Plans to move Masterton Primary School’s catchment to Inverkeithing were dismissed and education services were asked to come up with a new solution to resolve capacity issues at Woodmill High School.

However, executive director Carrie Lindsay said ruling Masterton out of the plans meant they did not have an answer.

Her report to the committee revealed that decisions will now come down to distance, meaning that pupils on the outer edge of the catchment are most likely to be affected.

“The service will have to provide transport for them and there will be no guarantee nor assurance that their siblings will be able to attend the same school,” she stated. “Additionally, if all other things are equal, then ultimately it will come down to a ballot for places.

“As matters stand, most of these people will not have taken part in the engagement sessions as they would have not thought themselves likely to be impacted.

“Therefore, the service believes that the officers need to dedicate time, in the immediate term, to supporting those children and families through the enrolment process for August 2018.”

The report says it was clear that no proposal to change the catchment areas of the four secondary schools could be consulted upon, agreed and actioned by August 2018.

Any new proposals are likely to come before the education and children’s services committee in January with the first round of consultation expected to begin on January 31 and any final decision made in August.

Committee convener Fay Sinclair explained: “The committee was unanimous in our decision at the last meeting, and today, that we didn’t want children from Masterton bussed to a school outwith Dunfermline and so we asked officers to come back with an alternative proposal to address the catchment issues at Woodmill HS. We understood that this would mean further uncertainty for some parents and pupils due to transition to Woodmill HS but we did not feel able to agree to consult with communities on the proposals which had been set before us.

“We appreciate the urgency but at the same time feel it is better to take time to reach the right decision. Any changes will affect children across the Dunfermline and South West Fife area and we have a duty to make sure that those changes are properly thought through.

“Although this is unlikely to resolve the capacity issues at Woodmill HS, for the majority of children nothing will change at all and they will continue onto their current catchment secondary school. The only children affected are some children due to transition to Woodmill HS.

“While we understand that any uncertainty, even for a small number of pupils, can be upsetting for children we will be working closely with them to help them deal with the changes.”

The pupil census has now been completed and it is anticipated that Woodmill HS could be up to 50 places short for the next school year. This figure could reduce as parents may choose to make placing requests to other schools and families can move and change addresses.