THE creation of a £180m learning campus in Dunfermline should move a step closer today (Thursday) with the approval of an outline business plan.

The facility, the first of its kind in Scotland, will accommodate 1,700 Woodmill High and 1,000 St Columba’s High pupils, providing much needed additional capacity for both schools.

They will share the Shepherd Offshore site with Fife College who, along with Fife Council, are working with the Scottish Government, Scottish Futures Trust and Scottish Funding Council to develop an “overarching vision” for a more integrated schools and college learning provision.

As well as separate school buildings and shared spaces, the campus will house community facilities including full size outdoor pitches for football and other sports along with changing rooms.

The council said Woodmill's existing "sand dressed pitch is unpopular and limited in size and does not meet expectations or needs of sports groups" and a full-size replacement will "remove this barrier to participation".

In a report to members of Fife Council’s policy and co-ordination committee, which is expected to approve the outline business case today, education and children’s services executive director Carrie Lindsay said: “This project will be the first of this kind in Scotland, acting as a pathfinder for change in the delivery of education across secondary, further and higher education.

“It is envisaged that the learning campus will also provide a digital gateway for learning opportunities across Fife, enabling enhanced learning opportunities, in particular, within the senior phase.”

Both schools are currently rated C, the lowest, for condition and Woodmill is currently at full capacity.

Significant amounts of money have been spent to stop the buildings getting any worse.

Since 2015, including the costs after the fire in August 2019, £10.6m has been spent on refurbishment and repairs to a faulty lift, decoration, floor coverings, fire alarm, lighting and the toilet blocks, as well as providing modular accommodation.

In the same timeframe, around £1.15m has been spent at St Columba’s for similar wear and tear issues. A further £20m for Woodmill and £11m for St Columba's would need to be spent on the buildings if the schools don't move.

The council said an indicative budget of £111m for their share of the project has been included in their capital investment plan for 2021-2031.

Under the proposals, each school will keep its own identity but will share some accommodation. Each will have its designated classrooms, however, collaborative work between the two schools, particularly in the senior phase, would be supported by shared curricular areas.

The campus will have “secure” areas of business solely for each individual learning place, “invited” areas of shared spaces and public spaces which the full community can use.

"There is a potential opportunity to incorporate all three elements within the campus, whilst maintaining strong brand identities and focus,” said Ms Lindsay. “This will be essential for both the college and schools to deliver learning and training to such a wide community of learners.

“The ambition is to develop and deliver ‘one coherent offer’ to young people which highlights the learning packages available to them across school and college, and the routes for progression, rather than continuing to distinguish between the different approaches to the delivery of the curriculum at present.

“This will create opportunities for more flexible learning, with that learning linked to employability and tailored to socio-economic needs.”

In keeping with this, Fife College is also planning to develop a 'university hub', with a range of partners, to support both further and higher education opportunities.

There will be chances for flexible learning linked to employability.

Approval of the outline business case will allow the project to progress if the education committee give it the go-ahead for the two schools to be re-located at their meeting in September.

Enabling works and initial preparation – estimated to cost around £19m – will then be able to take place before the full business case is finalised early next year.