Preferred Site for Proposed Replacement School for Kincorth and Torry Academies (ECS/13/019)
The Committee had before it a report by the Director of Education which presented alternative sites for the building of the proposed replacement school for Kincorth and Torry Academies. By way of background, the report advised that the Council had been awarded £22 million as a contribution towards the cost of a new secondary school by the Scottish Futures Trust, and that a further £10 million had been allocated as part of the Non Housing Capital Programme at the budget meeting of Council (article 1 of the minute of the budget meeting of Council of 14 February 2013 refers).
With reference to article 3 of this minute, the Convener invited Mr Forsyth to address the Committee. Mr Forsyth outlined his concerns in relation to the report before members, in particular that he did not feel that there would be a way back from this decision in the future and that the report was too focused on the planning aspects of the sites, and not the educational benefits that a new school would present. He advised that the Parent Council was not opposed to a new building to replace Torry Academy, but that they had concerns around the officers’ recommendation for the proposed site. He continued that they did not want to delay the process and were acutely aware of the funding issues, and therefore would propose (1) that a comparative educational assessment be undertaken prior to consultation, with Torry and Kincorth Academies being benchmarked in order that it was clear what the benefits of the new school would be, (2) that four sites be considered (Bobby Calder Park, Tullos, Kincorth Academy and Abbotswell Road), and (3) that the final decision on this matter be taken by full Council.
Members asked a number of questions of Mr Forsyth and officers, in particular, the Director of Education, Culture and Sport clarified that any delay or substantial change to the project would result in the Scottish Government reallocating the funding. Mrs Gorman further advised that the educational benefit statement would be part of the formal consultation process, and that any comparative statement would be about two old schools being replaced with a new school, and not based on the site of the school. The Convener thanked Mr Forsyth for his contribution.
Members then heard from Councillors Kiddie and Finlayson as local members, in terms of Standing Order 32(1). Councillor Kiddie highlighted his main concerns (1) that Torry was a regeneration area, (2) that Wellington Road was highly congested, (3) that subsidised transport may only apply to those who live over three miles away from the new school, (4) that there was no direct bus route between Torry and the proposed site for the new school, (5) that staff and parents already faced significant challenges in getting pupils to attend a local school, and (6) that 56% of parents in Torry did not have access to a car, and therefore may find it difficult to attend parents’ evenings. He concluded that he hoped all of these concerns would be considered during the formal consultation, and that resolutions could be found. Councillor Finlayson stated that he understood the concerns of the Torry residents, but he felt that careful consideration, planning and organisation (particularly in terms of buses and footpaths), could lead to a first class facility being available for all.
The report recommended –
that the Committee instructs officers to carry out statutory consultation on the following formal proposal “to close Kincorth Academy and Torry Academy and to amalgamate the two schools on a new purpose built secondary school on the Bobby Calder Park site”.
The Convener, seconded by the Vice Convener, moved:
that the report’s recommendations be approved.
Councillor Townson, seconded by Councillor McCaig, moved as an amendment:
that the Committee (a) instructs officers to carry out statutory consultation on the following proposal “to close Kincorth Academy and Torry Academy and to amalgamate the two schools in a new purpose built secondary school on the Bobby Calder Park site” and to research the cost of provision of daily transport for all Torry Academy year groups to and from the said Bobby Calder Park site, irrespective of the travelling distance involved, and (b) instruct officers to research and report back on the alternative of Torry Academy remaining a separate entity on its current site and a new Kincorth Academy being built on the said Bobby Calder Park site, achieving such a build within timescales set by the Scottish Futures Trust, thus allowing them to release their contribution towards the said project, should the Committee decide following formal consultation, that a new school amalgamating Torry Academy and Kincorth Academy should not proceed.
The votes cast were as follows: for the motion (15) – the Convener; the Vice Convener; and Councillors Boulton, Carle, Cooney, Crockett, Greig, Malik, Milne, Stewart, Taylor and Young; and Mr Maclean, Mr Nicoll and Mr Paul; for the amendment (7) – Councillors Cameron, McCaig, May, Noble, Samarai, Stuart and Townson.
The Committee resolved:
to adopt the successful motion.