Shock as four Aberdeen secondaries could be lost in merger plans

28th May 2010 at 01:00

The number of secondary schools in Aberdeen could be reduced from 12 to eight, as part of a controversial proposal that has taken the city by surprise.

Over-capacity has long been a problem and it was widely suspected that amalgamations might have to take place. But the potential loss of four schools came to most as a shock.

One leading figure in local educational circles privately told The TESS that such a drastic change was not workable and that one of several other scenarios, which include the status quo, would have to be chosen.

A council report, which was due to go before the education, culture and sport committee yesterday, made it clear that the eight-secondary model was officials' preferred choice. It showed there were 9,208 secondary pupils on April 22, representing 85 per cent occupancy, but the disparity between rolls and capacity is projected to widen until at least 2018.

The average roll is 767 and officers' "professional experience and research" show the optimal size for a secondary lies between 800 and 1,200 pupils; the current overall roll, spread across eight schools, would result in an average roll of 1,151.

Officers argued that some schools were "not suitable for the delivery of a modern curriculum", and that their preferred plan would allow schools to build on the increasingly common trend for collaboration between schools in running courses.

Financial considerations are also at the fore. Officers believe a new 1,200-pupil school would cost about pound;35 million at today's prices, but have pointed to the potentially lucrative sale value of schools which may form part of mergers.

Oldmachar Academy, for example, is valued at almost pound;19 million, while the school with which it would merge, Bridge of Don Academy, is nearly pound;17 million. These are "book prices" which would not necessarily reflect the market value of the buildings, particularly in this economic climate.

Officials would expect to draw on developer contributions, and explore "traditional methods of funding" and "legacy contributions" from Aberdeen- based multinationals.

The education committee was asked yesterday to approve a "period of engagement with stakeholders" to start on Monday and end on August 26, with statutory consultation to follow.

In a statement issued before yesterday's meeting, local Educational Institute of Scotland secretary Grant Bruce said members were disappointed that the report to councillors was "void of educational rationale".

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

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