Recommendations will then be put forward for councillors to debate before any Moray school extensions, mergers or closures are finalised.
‘Underinvestment in Moray schools’
Moray’s schools are ranked amongst being in the worst condition in the whole of Scotland.
Targets set by the Scottish Government require buildings to be graded at least B, meaning satisfactory, for condition.
However, in the most recent statistics five of Moray’s eight secondary schools fall below that level. Four are ranked C, meaning poor, and Forres Academy is graded D, meaning bad.
Only 22 of the 44 primary schools meet the minimum standard. There are 21 ranked C and one, Alves Primary, graded D.
Andy Hall, Moray Council’s acting head of education resources, admits there has been an underinvestment in the region’s schools. He argues children could receive a better experience in more modern facilities. He said:
“There has been an underinvestment in the school estate in the past, but now there is a commitment to invest.
“We need to reduce the estate, that’s a given, and we need to make sure what we have got is supporting a 21st century curriculum.
“First of all we have to look at what we have, and it’s not necessarily just looking at the buildings that are 100 years old because in the 1960s and 70s there was more of a throwaway economy.
“We also need to look at what we are going to need. There is a falling birth rate, which means the school population will reduce, which we expect to steady out in four or five years.
“Everything needs to be very much focussed on what the educational benefit will be.”
Could school buildings be used more for other uses?
Traditional school buildings are currently only used 190 days a year. It means they lie empty almost as often as they are used.
Options being considered as part of the review include examining options to make the facilities more available for community use. It is hoped making the buildings more sustainable could sustain Moray schools while also avoiding closures of other facilities.
Possible uses could include incorporating more sport facilities, community rooms, libraries with some schools in Aberdeenshire even housing police stations. Mr Hall said:
“It’s particularly exciting for rural schools. We have already had some conversations about the former Inveravon school.
“One of the things the community there wants is a rural business centre. The community thinks there are lots of opportunities there when it’s handed back to the owner.
“Shared-use buildings is the sustainable model of the future. We understand there are concerns around safety. We can already control that with restricted or controlled access, CCTV and some other things.”
Mrs Robertson added: “There are excellent examples of what can be done at Alford and Ellon.
“We can’t just look at one little corner. We need to look at the whole window of the wider benefits of modern buildings.”
Source: The Press & Journal