Council leaders have pledged to make building a new secondary school for the north-east’s biggest town a spending priority in their new budget.
Ahead of this morning’s Aberdeenshire Council pre-budget meeting, co-leaders Richard Thomson and Martin Kitts-Hayes laid out their vision for the coming year.
Although the local authority is facing the challenge of slashing £50million of spending in the next four years, the new SNP administration could clear the balance sheet to make room for a new school.
Mr Thomson said: “Martin and myself went up to visit Peterhead last week. We went to see the academy for ourselves and we were very impressed with the leadership team, with the academic resources.
“But there are clearly a number of challenges around the buildings which we saw first hand.”
Earlier this week, the P&J revealed the school’s own head teacher had branded the building “not fit for purpose” and that pupils are left “shivering” in the winter.
Mr Thomson yesterday estimated a replacement school would cost in the region of £35-40million.
But the co-leaders stressed that no commitment would be made until a detailed business case has been drawn up to demonstrate value for money.
When pupils received their exam results earlier this year, Peterhead’s 1,700 capacity academy had come second last in the region’s rankings.
This year, only a quarter of fourth year pupils at Peterhead Academy passed five national five courses.
Meanwhile, more than twice as many students at Alford, Ellon and Westhill academies achieved the same results, and nearly three times as many celebrated five passes in Banchory.
Around £36million has been spent on a new Ellon Academy, which opened to much fanfare this year, with a £50million replacement Inverurie Academy now planned to open in 2018.
But Mr Kitts-Hayes stressed the new administration – which seized control of the local authority in June – has not “inherited” plans to build a new academy in Peterhead.
“We want to make it plain that there is no money in the current capital plan for a new academy in Peterhead. If a new academy is delivered, it will be delivered by this administration.”
Aberdeenshire Council currently oversees 17 academies, 150 primary schools and four special schools across the region.