WITHIN the last few minutes, Education Secretary John Swinney has confirmed funding has been made available for a new shared learning campus to replace Woodmill High School. 

The estimated cost is between £150-180 million. The Scottish Government has confirmed it will invest up to £90 million in capital to fund the college portion of the campus, and up to 50 per cent of the overall cost for the schools element.

The proposed joint learning campus would bring together pupils, students and staff at Woodmill and St Columba’s high schools and Fife College in what Holyrood describes as modern, fit-for-purpose and low-carbon facilities.

The new campus could be ready by the end of 2024.

Who foots the bill for the remaining half of the schools element and how this affects Fife Council's plans to build a new Inverkeithing High School is unclear at this stage.

Mr Swinney is visiting Woodmill High now and is meeting headteacher Sandy McIntosh, before moving on to speak to school students being accommodated at Fife College and representatives of Fife College and Fife Council. 

We have a reporter covering his visit and will provide updates and further reaction to Mr Swinney's annouicement as the afternoon goes on.

Mr Swinney said: Woodmill High School was devastated by the fire and it is clear that Fife Council, Fife College and surrounding schools have made a tremendous effort to find alternative accommodation and minimise disruption to pupils’ learning.

“Since the fire ten days ago, I accelerated discussions with Fife Council and Fife College and I am now very pleased to confirm we support the development of a brand new joint learning campus. 

“Locating the two schools and Fife College on the same site would give pupils easy access to a greater variety of subjects and qualifications.

"Schools, colleges and universities are the cornerstones of our communities and a joint campus model will give Dunfermline a hub of high-quality, low-carbon and digitally-enabled facilities.”

Convener of Fife Council's education and children's services committee, Fay Sinclair said: “This is a really exciting opportunity. We have been looking at ways to expand, replace and improve our school buildings for some time and a shared campus will open up so many different learning options and routes for our young people to access the careers they want.

“We have already held community engagement sessions on the future of education provision. This will inform our work with Fife College to bring forward firm proposals for a new development, which the community will be consulted on before plans are finalised.

“Today’s announcement gives the Woodmill community reassurance about the long-term plans for their school, as we work through short- and medium-term arrangements at this difficult time.”

Fife College principal Hugh Hall said: “The proposals for the new campus, incorporating two high schools, the college and a university hub are learner-centred, innovative and progressive and will be transformational for education in Scotland.

“The college has been working with Fife Council in formulating the proposals and together we will be moving at pace to take forward proposals to create a unique learning environment in West Fife.”

The Scottish Government had been in discussions with Fife Council on the construction of the joint school and college campus since before the fire at Woodmill. In fact, the council has been asking for money for this campus since July 2015.

The Scottish Government will fund 100% of the college element of the Dunfermline Learning Community Campus, up to £90 million, via capital grant. 

The schools element of the campus would be funded as part of the £1 billion learning estate investment programme through a new funding model. Local authorities will borrow from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) or use their own capital monies to pay for the upfront cost of constructing a new learning facility. The Scottish Government would pay for ongoing maintenance of the new facility and fund other outcomes to be determined on a case-by-case basis.

Fife Council will consult with the community before plans are finalised.