People in Dunoon and Cowal will be asked for their views on the future of primary and pre-five education in the area during an Argyll and Bute Council consultation early next year.
Councillors agreed (at council meeting on Thursday 28 November) to launch the Dunoon Primary and Pre-Five Education Provision Options Consultation in January 2014. They also discussed the need to be clear on the uncertainty that lies over funding which impacts on the viability of the options chosen.
Following a detailed options appraisal process, two options will go forward for public consultation. Details of other options and why they were regarded as less feasible will be included as part of the consultation process.
The options which will go to public consultation are :
- Building a new shared campus and pre-five provision to replace Dunoon, Kirn and St Mun’s primary schools and Clyde Cottage nursery, on the site of the existing St Mun’s Primary School, the current Dunoon library site, part of the grounds at Dolphin Hall and the Rose Garden site. This would deliver a Grade A school, in terms of condition and suitability, with flexibility of design and space, especially outdoors, with a varied range of facilities.
- Building a new shared campus and pre-five provision to replace Kirn and St Mun’s primary schools and Clyde Cottage nursery on the current St Mun’s Primary School site, the current Dunoon library site, part of the grounds at Dolphin Hall and the Rose Garden site. This would again deliver a Grade A condition school with flexibility of design and space, especially outdoors, with a varied range of facilities. Dunoon Primary School would remain in its existing location and would be refurbished to Grade A condition but, as it is a listed building, the refurbishment would only achieve a Grade B suitability rating.
It was reported at the meeting that the Scottish Government has indicated funding support of £6 million for building a new shared campus for all three primary schools and pre-5 provision on the existing St Mun’s primary school. This support makes this the most economically viable option, as it would only require investment of £6.64 million by the council.
The level of funding that would be provided for the new build/refurbishment option is uncertain: the Government has indicated that it would only consider funding the new build element within this funding round. If future funding rounds were announced the council would need to consider a new bid – the timetable for this and the level of funding that would be available are very uncertain, therefore, for the refurbishment.
The council noted that the Scottish Government would not provide any funding for refurbishing the three existing schools, estimated to cost £14.83 million, in the current funding round. Any such proposal would require individual bids to future funding rounds if they were announced. The council confirmed they would not consult on a series of refurbishments they would be unable to deliver on.
Councillor Dick Walsh, Leader of the council explained why consultation with the school communities is important at this stage.
“Our aim is to improve the quality of education services for young people in Dunoon. We want to use whatever resources are available to deliver, in as far as is possible, the education services that local communities want. There is uncertainty about the funding levels and timescales of the three school refurbishment option which makes it unlikely it could be delivered. What is certain is that to secure additional Scottish Government funding for Dunoon we must carry out and complete work by March 2018. We therefore have to start consulting with local people now.”
The consultation launches on 20 January 2014 and runs until Sunday 9 February. Detailed information about the options will be available soon on the council’s website, within local schools and at the Queen’s Hall, Dunoon. People can also find out more at special consultation events where members of the team who have been working on the process will be available to answer questions and hear their views.
Argyll and Bute Council’s Policy Lead for Education and Lifelong Learning, Councillor Aileen Morton, said: “It is important to make sure that we have good quality schools for the future, and find the best solutions for providing primary and pre-five education in the area.
“There will be lots of ways for people to give their views on the different options available when the consultation gets underway. I have been visiting local schools over the past few weeks and am looking ahead to the consultation launch on 20th January, where people can find out more and share their opinions.”
Full details of the consultation arrangements will be available soon with letters and leaflets for pupils, information and a comments form online at the consultation web page and adverts in local press. A dedicated email address will be available and people can also write to the consultation team with their views.