Further to the reports in the press over the weekend, if you click on the audio download below, you can hear the early morning news on Wave 102, in which I made the point that we required urgent clarity on the funding of buildings improvements at Harris Academy. See also the article in today's "Courier" - http://tinyurl.com/harriscourier.
The good news that Scottish Government is to include Harris Academy in its secondary schools capital investment programme came at 9.30am with the following news release from government. It is excellent that Harris Academy is being included in the programme and clarification will be sought at Education Committee tonight about the extent of funding (the feasibility study on improving the school envisages a cost of at least £17 million) and the timescales involved.
Here is the news release from Scottish Government :
BUILDING BETTER SCHOOLS IN DUNDEE AND ANGUS
Over 1,700 pupils in Dundee and Angus will be lifted out of poor condition schools following the announcement that Harris Academy and Brechin High will be among the first fourteen secondary schools to benefit from the £1.25bn school building programme.
Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning Fiona Hyslop made the announcement today as she visited Lasswade High in Midlothian, before officially opening the new Armadale Academy. Ms Hyslop described the new building as "an inspirational example of everything a new school can be".
The Scottish Government, together with COSLA, will now accelerate the process of agreeing the first set of primary schools to benefit from investment, with an announcement expected before the end of the year. Every local authority local authority area across Scotland is expected to benefit from the first phases of the school building programme which sees £800m of funding from the Scottish Government and £450m from local councils.
The Cabinet Secretary also today, jointly with COSLA, set out the guiding principles for future planning and action to improve the whole of Scotland's school estate, with publication of the new school estate strategy - Building Better Schools: Investing in Our Future.
Ms Hyslop said:
"This Government and local authorities are already on track to lift 100,000 school pupils, by 2011, out of tired and crumbling school buildings and classrooms and providing them with cutting-edge accommodation and facilities in which to continue their 21st century education. As a result of the £2 billion of capital funding for 2008-10 made available to local authorities, over 150 projects have been completed since May 2007 and we expect 250 by 2011. What's more, the pace of building has quickened with new and refurbished schools being delivered faster over this four year term than the last four year term.
"Today's announcement is the latest step towards going even further and demonstrates our continued commitment to providing every pupil with the same high quality experience for their school building.
"Working in partnership with COSLA and local authorities we can deliver better school accommodation the length and breadth of Scotland and ensure our school estate is fit for the delivery of Curriculum for Excellence.
"In June I announced the new £1.25bn school building programme which will, with £800m of Scottish Government capital investment, deliver 55 new schools for Scotland.
"Today's announcement is the latest step towards turning that investment into better buildings. Pupils, teachers and communities across Scotland, including those in Dundee and Brechin, will benefit from these new schools.
"Today's allocations are just the start of our investment, representing a quarter of the new schools that will be built as part of this programme. What's more we have a vision for the school estate that will ensure we make the most of that investment, by backing it up with focus, ambition and commitment. The strategy published today sets out the guiding principals that will help us make the most of our buildings and spaces, grounds, fixtures and facilities.
"The pupils I have met at Armadale Academy today are testament to the rewards this can bring."
NOTES FOR NEWS EDITORS
1. Over 12,000 pupils across Scotland will be lifted out of poor condition schools with the seceltion of 14 secondary schools for the initial round of investment. The schools are:
· Ellon Academy in Aberdeenshire
· Mearns Academy in Aberdeenshire
· Brechin High in Angus
· Dalbeattie High in Dumfries and Galloway
· Harris Academy in Dundee
· Eastwood High in East Renfrewshire
· James Gillespie's in Edinburgh
· Auchmuty High in Fife
· Wick High in Highland
· Lasswade High in Midlothian
· Garnock Academy in North Ayrshire
· Clyde Valley High in North Lanarkshire
· Ayr Academy in South Ayrshire
· Dumbarton Academy in West Dunbartonshire
2. The following criteria were considered as part of the process to identify the first tranche:
· The distribution of needs, nationally
· Best available information about schools' condition (core facts, School Estate Management Plans, and other intelligency)
· Best availability on schools' "unsuitability" to deliver modern education
· Additionality - schools which are not part of a funded programme already
· Authorities' own priorities
· Aspects of readiness to proceed (bearing in mind there will be a second phase).
3. The first tranche of secondary schools has been identified by the Scottish Government in partnership with COSLA and the Scottish Futures Trust.
4. The first tranche of primary schools will be identified using the same criteria used for the first phase of secondaries. Without second guessing the process we have to go through, and having looked closely at the extent of poor conditions, unsuitability and the scale of needs and local investment priorities across Scotland we now anticipate that each council will benefit from the first phases of the school building programme.
5. The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT) will have a central role in managing this new school building programme, working alongside locals authorities. The SFT will develop, recommend and implement approaches that will secure a better schools programme across Scotland, and better value for money than could be achieved through each local authority working separately.
6. The new school estate strategy has pupils at its centre and sets out the joint Government-COSLA target of achieving in excess of 90% of children being educated in good condition schools, with firms plans to lift the rest of pupils out of being educated in schools in poor or bad conditions. The strategy document - Building Better Schools: Investing in Our Future - is available to view at www.scotland.gsi.gov.uk
7. In addition to the specific investment of £1.25bn, including £800m from the Scottish Government, we have provided local authorities with £2 billion of capital funding for 2007-11 for school building initiatives in their areas.
8. 250 new or refurbished schools over the period of this Parliament (48 months/208 weeks) exceeds the 200 over the previous 48 months/208 weeks. By the end of this Parliament, the rate of delivery will have gone up from 0.76 schools per week over the 8 years of the previous administration to an anticipated 1.2 per week over the period May 2007 - April 2011.
9. The West Lothian Project (Armadale Academy and Deans Community High) one of the first project reach financial close and to be signed off as Cabinet Secretary in August 2007.