THE relocation of St Columba's and Woodmill from their current sites to Halbeath has been approved formally by Fife Council.

Following the conclusion of the statutory consultation, councillors backed the move on Tuesday for both high schools to share the £200 million Dunfermline Learning Campus with Fife College.

Councillor Craig Walker, convener of the education and children’s services sub-committee, said: “This is good news for the schools involved, good news for the college and good news for Dunfermline.

"It takes us a step closer to having this proposal become a reality."

The ‘super campus’ idea was first suggested by Councillor Bryan Poole, the council’s then education spokesperson, in 2014 and although well received, the idea stalled due to a lack of funding.

Fife Council set aside £125m in February 2019 and the Scottish Government confirmed funding later that year, in September, one month after a fire that devastated the Woodmill building.

The new schools are scheduled to open at the Shepherd Offshore site in 2024.

Even before the blaze in August 2019, the condition of the buildings at Woodmill – opened in 1960; and those at St Columba's – opened in 1969; were rated C (poor) with the council keen to replace rather than waste huge sums on refurbishing and maintaining them.

New schools were built at Queen Anne in August 2003 and at Dunfermline High in August 2012.

Cllr Helen Law said: "Every year when we had the four headteachers from the secondary schools at the area committee I felt really embarrassed that we had two schools in really good shape and two schools that were in desperate need of replacement so I'm really pleased we've got to where we are today."

She added: "My main concern is what's going to be left at Abbeyview.

"I know the final part of that consultation, to see what sort of facilities can be left in Abbeyview, is due to finish on Saturday and that the community will feel the loss of the two schools. "Nevertheless, it's a very positive move forward from what was a pipe dream some years ago to have the schools and the college together on one campus."

At the sub-committee, George Haggerty, representing the Scottish Catholic Education Service, said there was already an example where bringing two schools together on one campus had "proved a bit problematic" and that, in contrast, new campuses were being built where two schools share facilities but are "quite discrete" from each other.

He raised concerns about the "extent to which we have an overlap or joint facilities" at Halbeath, such as a single entrance, shared dining area, one assembly hall and playground "where one group of youngsters will be outside, below the windows of the other school".

Louise Playford, service manager for the school estate, confirmed they were speaking to other local authorities to "see what challenges they faced and how we might think about our design so we can overcome some of those challenges".

She added that both headteachers were involved fully in the project.

Woodmill rector Sandy McIntosh said he was "genuinely excited about the opportunities this project will create for young people".

He said working collaboratively was the ideal but added: "What we're trying to do very carefully is create a campus that still protects the strong individual identities of both schools. That's a critical part of the project."

The public consultation ran online between April and June and the majority of the 70 responses were in favour with "significant enthusiasm" for the project.

Cllr Walker said: “The consultation has shown that the majority of children and young people are keen to have a learning campus, with the proposed new facilities which can be offered there, together with the opportunities to meet with old and new friends.

"The pupils are looking forward to a modern building and the new facilities that they’ll have access to.

“The close links with the college will provide them with a senior educational experience that is quite unique and will benefit both the pupils and Fife as a whole.”

The full business case should be approved in January or February with the final designs set to be in place in April 2022.