My letter focuses on several key concerns:
1. Councillors are not there to do the bidding of Officers. We are there to listen to the people who put us there - the public. We are to listen to them and try as best we can to represent their views and requirements.
2. Officers spoke continuously in terms of engagement sessions and what they thought was right - in Scotland where the child is at the centre of their learning and progress, no Officer had spoken to any pupil to find out how they felt about a decision that will ultimately affect them before anyone else.
3. Being part of a "community" every definition of a community failed to apply to the proposal on the table.
4. New schools - I have lost count of the amount of newspaper articles, pronouncements and promises made by elected representatives prior to May 5th this year on building new schools in Dunfermline. Now is the time to put those promises into action. Dunfermline and West Fife need new high schools, let us see that process begin.
Rather than continue on a long commentary here, I refer the reader to a previous discussion I had on this from last week and then the text of the full letter to the Dunfermline Press. - http://www.kathleenleslie.co.uk/2017/10/we-people-elected-representatives.html
Last Tuesday, Fife Council’s Education & Children’s Services Committee rejected, for a second time, Council Officers’ proposals to move to a Statutory Consultation that would have rezoned Masterton Primary School pupils to Inverkeithing High School instead of a high school in Dunfermline. A decision which would have cut youngsters off from being part of the Dunfermline community.
Whilst Officers were keen for Councillors to do their bidding, the cross-party consensus was that they had not got it right and would now have to redress the potential upcoming capacity crisis by removing Masterton Primary School from the equation. Given the extent of correspondence Councillors around the table had received from concerned parents it would have been wrong to sign off a decision that would have had an adverse effect on the well-being of youngsters.
I found it quite incredible that despite engagement sessions at affected primary schools no Council staff had thought it prudent to speak with the youngsters themselves and seek their thoughts. Councillors presented various definitions of a community (all of which failed to apply to Masterton children going to school in Inverkeithing), pointed out the lack of safe walk routes, the time youngsters would be waiting around for a bus home on dark Winter evenings and that whilst a continuous border may look so on a map the reality is somewhat different.
I understand that halting a move towards Statutory Consultation at this point means that Woodmill High School could potentially be over capacity in August 2018. However, given that since 2000 Dunfermline has seen the building of around 8,000 houses and the likelihood of a capacity crisis was recognised in 2015 it leaves me wondering what the previous Fife Council Administration was doing. Did no-one think that building so many new houses might mean that the current school infrastructure would not be able to cope? Or was it easier to just put off a decision and when we hit crisis point just move children around like pawns on a chessboard?
£50 million is set aside in the Capital fund for the building of new schools but to move this forward I have been informed that Fife Council must approach the Scottish Government for the other two thirds of the money. Prior to May’s local government elections many promises were made by councillors to build new schools in Dunfermline. We now need to see those promises kept.
Cllr Kathleen Leslie
Scottish Conservative & Unionist Party