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Council wants to shake up school estate

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
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Council wants to shake up school estate

EDUCATION chiefs have revealed ambitious plans to transform the schools estate in Dumfries and Galloway.

This would most likely lead to some school closures and fewer buildings overall, however there would be the creation of new campuses and significant refurbishments to provide a much better learning experience for pupils.

The proposal is to have “fewer and more flexible and adaptable buildings”, along with “new learning campuses” across the region.

These outline plans have been drawn up by council education officers as part of their ‘Dumfries and Galloway Learning Estate Strategy’, however much work is still to be done and councillors will have the final say on whether or not the vision becomes a reality.

The Dumfries and Galloway Learning Estate Strategy document will be discussed at today’s education committee.

It reads: “The capital investment plan outlines the key investments for new, replacement builds, extensions, refurbishment and planned improvements to the school estate.

“The school estate management plan will shape the demand for investment in the estate, providing guidance for priority projects and

investment.

“Both of these documents will allow for practical steps to be taken to achieve the vision as described in the learning estate strategy.

“The vision of having fewer and more flexible and adaptable buildings, and creating new learning campuses across the authority, will have to be agreed.

“In order to achieve this strategic vision, we need to review and reduce the size of our estate and remove buildings from the asset class to improve the quality and sustainability of those buildings that we retain.”

The report adds that engaging with all stakeholders, such as parent councils and teaching trade unions, will be an important part of progressing the development of the schools estate.

As expected with any major project, formal consultation processes would also be implemented.

The 13-page Dumfries and Galloway Learning Estate Strategy concludes: “The long-term vision is to have a manageable estate, with the right buildings in the right place, that is determined by an effective school model that can propose recommendations for change and facilitate that change.

“Implementation of the learning estate strategy is an extensive piece of work that will require significant investment in time and staffing to implement over the coming years.

“The transformation events will engage with service users, staff and elected members to create the road map and recommendations required for positive change, increased efficiency and economic growth.

“The only way we can deliver on our commitments and priorities to improving outcomes for children and young people, while managing significant cost savings across all branches of the council, is to take a proactive approach towards managing a sustainable school estate and a willingness to be brave and accept that change is required through agreement, even if that agreement is just in principle.

“We believe this strategy will allow us to achieve the aim of creating a school model that is right for everyone.”

Over the last ten years, the council has built a new Dalbeattie High School, Northwest Community Campus, The Bridge and Dumfries High School. The local authority aims to continue modelling the Scottish Government’s plan to build ‘2-18’ campuses, while focusing on energy efficiency in all buildings.

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