Creation of new Dunfermline schools in the first learning campus of its kind in Scotland is up for debate.
Consultation has opened on the proposed replacement of Woodmill High School and St Columba’s RC High School at Halbeath Interchange.
If the £200 million project goes ahead they will be co-located with Fife College, opening up greater further education opportunities for pupils.
A series of online public meetings and drop-in sessions will start on April 26 to discuss proposals outlined in Fife Council’s consultation document.
What exactly is proposed?
The Dunfermline schools would form part of a learning campus at the former Shepherd Offshore site, south of the town’s Calaiswood Crescent.
In a state-of-the-art low-carbon building, the schools will retain their own identities and headteachers, and have their own designated classrooms with full IT capability.
However, they will share some accommodation, such as assembly halls, dining space, some senior phase curricular areas and outdoor education facilities.
Enhanced sports facilities, including all-weather pitches for football, rugby and hockey are proposed, with dedicated indoor sports areas for school and community use.
These could also include basketball courts, a dance studio, running tracks, gyms and tennis courts. However, it is not anticipated a swimming pool will be created.
There will also be access to learning plazas and Skills Academy facilities.
The department of additional support, based at Woodmill, will also be relocated to the campus and continue to serve both schools.
Capacity of Woodmill will be increased from 1,445 to 1,700, while St Columba’s will accommodate around 1,000 pupils.
Why are the new schools needed?
Even before a major fire destroyed part of Woodmill High School in August 2019, both schools’ buildings – half a mile apart in Woodmill Road and Shields Road – were rated as in poor condition.
Woodmill had leaky windows and poor toilets and now pupils are being taught in temporary modular accommodation. St Columba’s has poor insulation and both schools suffer from a lack of social space.
Dunfermline South SNP councillor Fay Sinclair said the new state-of-the-art learning campus was hugely exciting.
She said: “Both St Columba’s and Woodmill’s buildings are well past their best and their replacement is something I’ve been fighting for since before I was elected.
“I think what is being proposed far exceeds anything we thought possible five years ago.
“The learning campus not only delivers the much needed new classrooms but a new, joined-up approach to learning that will provide the best opportunities from the start of high school right through to college and university.”
What is being proposed far exceeds anything we thought possible five years ago.”
Councillor Fay Sinclair
Shelagh McLean, council head of education, said: “Both schools are in need of replacement and we feel that in relocating them to a joint campus site we can offer pupils at both schools an incredible opportunity in terms of cutting-edge facilities and advanced learning opportunities.”
Who will pay?
The cost of the two new Dunfermline secondary schools and college campus is estimated at between £180 and £200 million.
The entire college, up to £90m, will be funded by the Scottish Government, which will also pay for up to half of cost of the schools, but in revenue funding rather than capital. Fife Council will cover the remainder, having set aside more than £117m for secondary school provision in south and west Fife.
How to have your say
Head teachers Sandy McIntosh, of Woodmill, and Mick McGee, of St Columba’s, want people who will be affected to take part in the consultation.
In a joint statement, they said: “We can’t stress enough how important it is for both school communities to get involved and make their views on the proposal known.
“We need to hear the voices of all those who have an interest in the schools. This is an important part of the process and it’s vital we know what our communities think.”
Pupils will also be involved in the discussions.
The consultation runs until May 28. Online public meetings will be held on April 26, May 5 and May 17, all from 6pm to 7.30pm. A series of drop-in events will also be held between April 20 and May 25. To take part email email@example.com.
A report of the consultation will be submitted by Fife Council to Education Scotland in June, which it is hope will be signed off in July.
This will be published early in September before the council’s education and children’s services committee makes a decision on the proposal.
Fife College already owns part of the site and the council will enter an option agreement to buy the remainder if the proposal is approved and planning permission granted.
Construction is expected to take three years and it is hoped pupils could move into the new schools in August 2024.