Axe falls on plans for secondary school on university campus

2nd September 2011 at 01:00
But both sides insist academic ties between Madras College and St Andrews University will still materialise

Plans for Scotland's first secondary school on a university campus have been scrapped.

Madras College in St Andrews had hoped to move into a new building on land belonging to St Andrews University, but the university announced this week that it had withdrawn from the project.

Fife Council, the school's head and the university have all underlined that closer academic links promised will still materialise, but the authority admitted in a recent report that the likely alternative of a new Madras College on one of the school's two existing sites, nearly two miles from the university, would "lack the iconic impact" of the original plan.

Principal Louise Richardson and senior governor Ewan Brown said the university had "invested an enormous amount of time, energy and resources in working with the council to provide the families of this community with an exemplary secondary school that would be the envy of others throughout the country".

They stressed that the university had remained committed to the project, despite the original plans having been diluted several times in the two years during which details had been hammered out; the university had signed off in April, they added, but never received a reply from Fife Council.

"Unfortunately, the difficult economic times in which we find ourselves, and which are being felt so keenly across the public sector, have militated against the kind of creative thinking required for an innovative project like this to work," they stated.

Madras headteacher Ian Jones described the university's decision as "regrettable", adding that it "brings to an end a substantial amount of work and a huge investment of time and energy".

A Fife Council briefing to councillors, seen by TESS, shows that in the weeks before the university withdrew its support, the project became bogged down in difficulties over the valuation of land.

Council leader Peter Grant told TESS that several factors made it clear that a deal would never be reached, but that links between the council and the university were "stronger than ever before".

A "significant amount" of the benefits promised by moving next to the university remained possible, he stressed, while conceding that being on the other side of town would make joint working more difficult.

Fife Council's policy, finance and asset management committee will confirm its favoured alternative site for the school on 22 September.

What was promised

The potential benefits of Madras College moving next to St Andrews University, as reported by TESS in January 2010, included:

- improved "science literacy" - deemed the biggest likely benefit - with the new school neighbouring university bases for chemistry, physics, biology and astronomy;

- increased numbers of pupils going to university;

- opportunities for pupils to experience non-school subjects such as sustainable development and international relations;

- university students acting as mentors and peer tutors;

- better sports facilities and access to university coaches;

- advice from the university's psychology department on tackling bullying and truanting.

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