FIFE COUNCIL have been urged to use community buildings to increase capacity at our schools and get children back into full-time education.

Susan Donald, secretary of Torryburn and Newmills Community Council, wrote to education chiefs this week calling on them to think more imaginatively in using large, barely-used buildings to create additional space for pupils.

As reported on page 10 of this week’s Press, the council is planning for primary children to attend a school setting two days a week and secondary pupils just once a week in August.

Susan, a former BBC editor, told the Press that she had grave concerns that state school children will be disadvantaged significantly compared to private school pupils who have continued with their education more proactively during the lockdown.

She said: “There is no imagination going into what other buildings/parks/churches or other accommodation can be used and telling kids that they are going back to school for one day a week is unforgivable!

“I know there will be a cost but it would be marvellous to get children back to full-time education, particularly children that come from vulnerable backgrounds who may have not been doing any work whatsoever.

“They are going to be one year behind other pupils who have parents who home-schooled them. And the government may decide NOT to hold exams next year, so you will have to get kids to repeat years.

“There is a tough future ahead for all these youngsters.

“We must not end up being the most unimaginative country in the world who found it impossible to teach their children when other nationalities have got theirs back.

“We need to remember that private schools kept going using Zoom and their kids have had lessons and can continue during school holidays.

“We did not do that, and must catch up or be responsible for allowing the failure of a generation of children.”

Dunfermline MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville said she had requested a meeting with Carrie Lindsay, Fife Council’s director of education, in order to discuss the current situation. ​

She said: “Organising this will undoubtedly be a challenge and I hope that Fife Council will be open to considering some of the creative solutions suggested by parents, staff, pupils and local community groups. ​

“The Scottish Government has made clear that it expects all local authorities to do everything in their power to maximise face-to-face learning and they will work closely with councils who have genuine concerns over resources.

​“Councils will be asked to think about how they can use public spaces such as community facilities, something Fife Council has done well in the past; for example, when children were educated in Kincardine Community Centre after the Cairneyhill Primary School fire. ​ ​​​

“We haven’t seen evidence of that type of innovation as of yet but I hope we do soon to give reassurance to pupils, parents and staff that the council has looked at every possible option. ​

​“We have to ensure our children and young people have the highest quality of education possible, despite the challenges we are all facing.”

MP for Dunfermline and West Fife Douglas Chapman said: “The blended return of school pupils back into some kind of normal is an incredible challenge for every local authority across Scotland, including Fife Council.

“Education officers in Fife will be working flat-out to accommodate every pupil as best they can and this could include using churches and unused council buildings, but there are serious considerations that need to be made before these are used, such as the distance some pupils will need to travel, the accessibility of the buildings for all pupils and if the premises meet the highest of safety standards.

“I would hope that each school will have bespoke solutions to maximise the number of pupils who can return to school each week by using other facilities nearby and of course, outdoor spaces.”

Executive director for education and children’s services Carrie Lindsay commented: “We have shared our proposed model that is deliverable in almost all primary settings and will continue the work to see if we can increase provision through the use of any additional available staff and alternative accommodation.

“We are still finalising what each bespoke model will look like in secondary schools and will consider the use of other buildings where possible.”