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Victorian schools left to crumble as work hit by RAAC crisis – but Ferryhill and Harlaw repairs ‘a top priority’

Dealing with the 'bubbly' material has caused various projects to be delayed.

Hanover Street Primary School in Aberdeen may have to wait for any improvements. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson
Hanover Street Primary School in Aberdeen may have to wait for any improvements. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Work to repair Aberdeen’s crumbling Victorian schools has been delayed as an emerging RAAC crisis throws the council’s plans into turmoil.

The local authority has scrambled to revise its priorities after discovering reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete in three buildings.

On Tuesday we revealed that repairs at Northfield could cost upwards of £1 million.

Officers also found the “bubbly” material in St Machar and Hazlehead academies last year – and the investigations have dominated their time given the potential safety risks.

The emergency has left some projects on the drawing board, while others have been delayed.

RAAC investigations have had a knock-on effect on other school projects. Image: Paul Glendell / DC Thomson

The updated school estate plan recently went before the education and children’s services committee.

Convener Martin Greig noted the “dynamic situation” as he explained the need to reset expectations at other sites – with more “realistic” timelines now set.

This will have an impact on pupils across the city, with upheaval expected at Tillydrone, Bucksburn and Loirston.

But what projects have been hit the hardest?

What will happen to the city’s Victorian schools?

A business case for crucial improvement works to Victorian schools across Aberdeen had initially been expected to go before councillors in May.

This would identify the cost and scale of work required at various buildings.

But this has now been pushed back until next February.

Improvements at both Harlaw Academy and Ferryhill School will be carried out separately as they have been deemed to be the “highest priority”.

Ferryhill Primary School is one of Aberdeen’s Victorian schools. Image: Chris Sumner/DC Thomson

Officers will focus on both facilities this year while the others will be left behind to deteriorate further.

Service manager Andrew Jones told the chamber that all of the city’s Victorian schools are a priority.

And he said the local authority would aim to address issues with suitability of all the buildings while balancing staff and cash flow.

Aberdeen City Council will move forward with improvement works at Harlaw Academy. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

However, the council chief noted that more time was needed to “really understand” the scope of work that would be required and how much it would cost.

Work on the wider Victorian school estate is not expected to begin until next year.

Is St Peter’s work still on track?

Funding for transformational work to St Peter’s RC School is due to be approved when the council sets its budget on March 6.

Plans to upgrade Old Aberdeen House and create a state-of-the-art facility for youngsters were approved back in December.

The move will see pupils stay at the Old Aberdeen site instead of relocating to the existing Riverbank School.

Old Aberdeen House will be transformed into the new home of St Peter’s RC School. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

If granted as part of the budget, work on the building will begin next March and is due to be complete by August 2026.

However, the council has stated these timescales are currently “indicative” and could change.

Councillors were told this would take account of the ongoing construction work at the new Riverbank School site.

Construction has started again on the new Tillydrone school site. Image: Ben Hendry/DC Thomson

Work at the replacement £36.2 million Tillydrone facility is facing yet another delay.

The new school is now expected to welcome pupils at the end of the year and not the summer, as previously promised.

What about schools in Northfield?

Work will continue to be carried out to reduce the number of schools in Northfield.

The council is looking to potentially merge some facilities as they claim it will benefit pupils currently learning in under-capacity classrooms.

A further update on the proposed changes is expected to go before the committee later this year.

New Bucksburn/Newhills school delayed

Meanwhile, plans to build a new school to serve the Newhills area have been shelved for the time being.

Last summer, the council agreed to launch a public consultation on the proposed new educational facility.

It was hoped the school would welcome pupils from the planned new housing development as well as those outwith the amended catchment area for Brimmond School.

But the consultation, which was expected to be held during the winter, has been delayed.

There are concerns Brimmond Primary School in Bucksburn is “bursting at the seams”. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Education chiefs believe there is “no immediate requirement” to start work on the new school.

However, this move was blasted by councillor Kate Blake who told the chamber that Brimmond School was “bursting at the seams”.

The school is currently forecast to be 118% over capacity by 2026.

Mr Jones reassured her that council staff were keeping a close eye on pupil numbers and said the consultation would be launched when they feel a new school is needed.

Loirston proposal on hold

And plans for a new school within the planned Loirston Loch development won’t be picking up pace anytime soon either.

A site has been earmarked for a new school in Newhills. Image: Aberdeen City Council Date; Unknown

As work on the site has been limited, council chiefs say there is no requirement for extra school capacity at the moment.

Officers will keep an eye on the ongoing development and will launch a feasibility study when they feel there is an increasing need for the facility.

An update on the school estate works will be presented to the committee in September.

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