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Call for action to address school overcrowding forecasts

Councillor Martin Ford has welcomed the changes
Councillor Martin Ford has welcomed the changes

Education chiefs are being urged to reveal how they plan to tackle rising secondary school rolls in Garioch.

The area’s two academies, Inverurie and Kemnay, are already at bursting point with pupil numbers expected to soar over the next five years.

Councillors have already approved a £14.9million extension of Kemnay to curb the problem, but Inverurie Academy – with a capacity of 1,100 – is expected to have more than 200 too many pupils by 2018.

Councillor Martin Ford (Green Party), of East Garioch ward, has written to Aberdeenshire Council’s education director, Maria Walker, calling for action.

In his letter, he states: “A group to consider options for future secondary provision in the A96 corridor was first convened in August 2012. At that time, it was suggested the key decisions – in particular, whether a third academy was needed – would be taken in spring 2013.

“By November 2013, council officers had prepared detailed options for consideration. Decisions were to be taken in 2014.

“This summer I was advised an options paper would come to the Garioch area committee and then go to policy and resources committee for a decision this autumn. I am now told that is no longer likely to happen.”

Last night Mr Ford raised concerns about the length of time it would take to build a new school, and repeated his plea for a decision to be made before there was a problem with overcrowding.

The East Garioch councillor said: “Of course these are big, long-term decisions and the council needs to consider the options very carefully before committing to one course of action.

“But the pupils for which the additional secondary accommodation is needed are already in the feeder primary schools, and given the time it takes to plan and build a new academy or major school extension, the decision on what to do must be taken.”

If the council does build a third school in the area, a lengthy re-zoning exercise to adjust school catchment areas may need to be carried out.

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesman confirmed Mr Ford’s letter had been received, and said: “This project has a number of complex considerations that have required thorough investigation. Matters are now at an advanced stage of discussion and a number of options are being developed.

“These options will be outlined in a report that will be brought before the appropriate committees for consideration in due course.”

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