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Madras College pitch row: PE teachers pleaded for hockey surface lacking at £50 million new school

Pitches have been laid at the new Madras College.

PE teachers pleaded for a hockey pitch at the new Madras College in a letter which has been uncovered using freedom of information legislation.

The lack of playing surface suitable for the sport at senior level has been at the centre of a row as the £50 million new school is built in St Andrews.

Players in the town, which has several hockey clubs, say the longer artificial surface of a 3G pitch is no good for the game beyond S3 level and their campaign has been backed by Scottish Hockey.

Madras College pupils Abbey Wallace right and sister Tara were among those who campaigned for a pitch suitable for hockey at the new school.

A demonstration in February pressed for Fife Council to revert to the original proposal for one 2G sand-dressed pitch and a 3G pitch.

A demonstration calling for a 2G pitch was held in February.

With two 3G pitches already laid at the school, which is due to open next summer, it has emerged that the school’s PE department wrote to the head teacher to make the case for one of them to be sand-based.

The council has previously stated that the school and community use teams “strongly feel” the 3G pitches – one for rugby and one all-weather – will address most of their needs and ensure maximum use.

Fife Council initially failed to provide the letter in response to an FOI request from but issued it during an investigation by the Scottish Information Commissioner.

The letter signed by eight PE teachers to the former head teacher said the department prided itself on delivering a broad range of activities and added: “If we are to have two surfaces that are rubber crumb based [3G] then we will restrict what activities we can offer as a part of our curriculum in both the broad general education junior phase and senior core and certificated classes.”

It also said a 2G pitch at the school’s Kilrymont campus was used year-round for several different sports, including football and touch rugby as well as hockey.

Commissioner’s findings

Information commissioner Daren Fitzhenry, asked to review the council’s initial response to the FOI, found the council failed to respond within the required timescale and failed to identify all of the information requested.

He also criticised the lack of record kept of the meeting where the decision was made to proceed with two 3G pitches, given it was already clear the decision would not be universally popular.

Hockey coach Rachel Philp, who made the FOI request, said: “Because there are no records, we can have no confidence that the decision involving over £1m of public funds was made wisely or responsibly.

An opportunity has been missed to value and engage a diverse range of sports – and therefore people, particularly teenage girls – in the synthetic pitch selection.”

Rachel Philp, hockey coach

“The council says that the curriculum is the main reason for the decision but this letter from the PE departments contradicts that.”

The new school, she said, would be a great asset and its delivery was long overdue, but she added: “An opportunity has been missed to value and engage a diverse range of sports – and therefore people, particularly teenage girls – in the synthetic pitch selection.

State of the art school

Council head of education, Shelagh McLean said: “We are eagerly anticipating the opening of a fabulous new state-of-the-art high school in St Andrews that will meet the needs of young people in the area for generations to come.

“It’s really disappointing that, for some, the focus is on what they perceive the school is not providing, rather on what it will.

“The planning for a new Madras College has been on the go for a number of years and over that time there have been many discussions and debates over how sports are catered for at the new school.

“The new school has the added benefit of the ability to share resources with the university – a bonus that allows pupils access to more resources including the use of a hockey pitch.”

The information commissioner’s findings will be published on Tuesday.

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