Plans to build a secondary school at Aberdeen’s troubled Countesswells “new town” could be scrapped – with children attending a replacement Hazlehead Academy instead.
The local authority struck a deal to build a high school in Countesswells as part of an agreement with developers building thousands of homes there.
Aberdeen City Council entered the agreement with Countesswells Development Ltd with the idea of opening it after the 1,000th home was built.
But the major scheme has been left in limbo in recent years, with the future of the major construction project still in doubt.
And council talks with the Stewart Milne Group subsidiary have stalled since it went into administration in 2021.
Countesswells ‘unviable’ for new academy as Hazlehead gains official nod
So far, around 900 have been constructed in Aberdeen’s newest town, along with the first of an agreed two primaries.
With no sign of when another 100 might be built, changes are now afoot.
Only 47 children from Countesswells are on the Hazlehead roll.
This temporary stint could soon be made permanent.
Council property chief Stephen Booth says the first 1,000 homes would only bring 100 secondary-aged pupils to Countesswells.
Future of Countesswells ‘difficult to predict’
“It is difficult to predict a timeline for when (the 1,000-home milestone will be reached) due to current market conditions and the impact of the development going into administration,” he writes in a report to councillors.
He adds: “100 pupils is not viable to sustain a new secondary school both from a curriculum offering and the capital investment required.”
Aberdeen City Council has a minimum of a 1,000 prospective pupils for any new secondary school, to support “high quality learning and teaching”.
New Hazlehead Academy plans in the works
Both the city’s education and finance committees are to be asked to make the new 1,600-pupil Hazlehead Academy the council’s agreed way forward this week.
It would be built on the current academy’s playing fields.
Now property chiefs want to consult the public on changing up the catchment of Hazlehead to include Countesswells and Kingswells permanently.
The shake-up could be approved next summer.
The Scottish Government last week finally revealed a long-awaited funding pledge for what’s promised to be the city’s first “green school”.
Understood to be worth “a substantial eight-figures”, it’s been promised towards the new Hazlehead Academy.
Talks over new Hazlehead Academy v Countesswells secondary stall
But building a new school there might cause the city to miss out on other cash.
Aberdeen’s deal with CDL specifically requires a secondary to be constructed in the 3,000 development, which is still thought to be up for sale.
And council bosses have been unable to get permission to shift their attentions elsewhere, given the ongoing administration process.
It means contributions which would have been made towards a Countesswells academy can’t be used to help fund Hazlehead.
There has already been an almighty wrangle over developer contributions towards Countesswells School, which opened earlier this year.
Mr Booth says: “The agreement for the Countesswells development signed in 2016 sets out clear triggers for secondary education provision.
“Any proposed changes will require to be discussed and negotiated accordingly.
“It has proved challenging for officers to conduct any engagement (since CDL’s administration) regarding potential options for future secondary school provision for Countesswells pupils.”
This is despite the fact that some of the homes have been sold on the basis that there would soon be a nearby secondary school.
But this is unlikely to make negotiations any easier, Mr Booth warns.
Council urged to splash out on swimming pool
Our readers made clear their top priority for the new Hazlehead Academy
Hazlehead and Kincorth pools were mothballed by budget cuts in 2016.
And reopening Hazlehead looks increasingly unlikely as it’s one of the public buildings thought to contain “bubbly” reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac).
Councillors on the education committee will vote on Tuesday, with the financial case to be scrutinised the following day.