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‘Kicked into the long grass’: Councillors dismayed by four-year delay to Aberdeen school improvement plan

Kittybrewster Primary School, Aberdeen.
Kittybrewster Primary School, Aberdeen.

Aberdeen councillors have expressed dismay at a delay to a plan for the upkeep of city schools, with one claiming the strategy has been “kicked into the very long grass”.

The deferral to the Aberdeen City Council schools estates plan will see it pushed back to 2022 – four years after it was first called for by councillors.

It is understood the new delay could affect older granite-built schools such as Kittybrewster, Skene Square and Ashley Road primary schools.

Aberdeen City Council co-leader Douglas Lumsden stressed significant sums had been invested in schools, but was told some schools were waiting too long for much-needed improvements.

The new strategy was due for publication this year, before being pushed back a second time due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It sets out how the council will manage and improve Aberdeen’s secondary and primary school estates in future years.

And it also forecasts student capacity figures and how school buildings are used to deliver the curriculum.

A plan was last published in 2018.

Councillor Martin Grieg said the decision to delay the plan was “really worrying” and accused city officials of “dodging” the need to provide safe and adequate learning environments for pupils.

He said: “We’ve got individual schools around the city crying out for a plan for long-term programmes of maintenance and improvement and the council is kicking this whole subject, not just into the long grass, but the very long grass.

“It is regrettable Conservative, Labour and Independent councillors are not interested in producing a strategy to improve our school buildings.

“They have taken every possible opportunity in the last four years to avoid the problems of the deteriorating conditions in the school estate.”

SNP councillor Neil Copland added that he was “disappointed” by the decision to delay the plan.

He added: “Every school had a conditions survey done last year and that should inform the schools that need work doing to them.

“The work to make schools Covid-19 ready has been done, but improvement work has had to be delayed – it’s not ideal.”

Mr Lumsden said the current administration had “invested heavily” into the school estate.

He added: “We’ve put money into Lochside Academy quite recently and we’ve also got four new primary schools that are in the process of being built.

“I think it’s ironic, because when Martin Grieg’s Liberal Democrats were in the administration the only thing they did was close schools.”

It is understood a majority of councillors within the education committee first called for the new plan in 2019, which saw its publication moved to this year.

However, the decision was ultimately taken last week to delay the strategy for a further two years.

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman said: “A decision has been made to defer the submission of the school estate plan for committee approval until summer 2022, in light of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the provision of education.

“This will provide officers time to reflect on any national guidance that may be provided on how education will be delivered in the future, and how a school estate may look in light of this.”

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