A promised primary school in Dundee’s Western Gateway has been put in doubt as residents are forced to wait up to a year on a government funding decision.
Dundee City Council awaits information on the criteria needed to apply for the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Investment Programme which would allow it to build the school.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has now confirmed the plans will be set out over the next 12 months – despite councils previously being told the information would be given before Christmas.
It leaves a question mark over the Western Gateway school, as the local authority hopes to secure the funds to help meet its pledge of building the school.
Councillors agreed to supply the cash to build the school earlier this year and the government funding could cover a significant part.
The school, which could cost up to £16 million to build, is expected to be completed in 2025 however the delay leaves its timeline up in the air.
Ms Somerville confirmed the delay in response to a question from Dundee City West MSP Joe Fitzpatrick.
She wrote: “The Scottish Government intends to announce the projects that will form part of phase three of the programme within the next 12 months.
“We will write to local authorities seeking investment proposals in 2022 and in the meantime will work with local government to agree the development programme timeline.”
Residents have blasted the setback after homeowners paid approximately £5,000 each in a ‘roof tax’ towards the school’s construction.
Ardler and St Fergus Primary Schools, the community’s nearest catchment schools, are located more than five miles away.
Community group chairman Bill Batchelor said the delay was a “major disappointment”.
He said: “We are not going to sit back and accept this. The demand for primary school education is still so strong in this area.
“We are not going to accept bussing our children to a school 5.6 miles away.
“It’s a really disappointing delay and it is non-committal to simply say it will be sometime in the next 12 months.”
Parents local to the Dundee suburb instead opt to send their children to schools closer by in Perth and Kinross and Angus – however these schools are facing capacity caps, which could impact enrolment.
Michael Marra, Labour North East MSP, said delays to the school are now “inevitable”.
He said: “Communities like the Western Gateway in Dundee have been waiting years for schools to be built by the SNP.
“They were promised answers by the end of the year, instead they got a glorified out of office that threatens to delay things even further.
“Many councils have project proposals ready to go, and with this delay it puts them in jeopardy.
“The school estate is vital to curriculum delivery, and the past two years have shown that much of our estate is not conducive to health and wellbeing, with issues around ventilation.
Many councils have project proposals ready to go, and with this delay it puts them in jeopardy.”
“These projects are badly needed, but yet again we have our do-nothing Education Secretary doing nothing.”
Following the reply, Mr Fitzpatrick and Dundee’s children and families convener Councillor Stewart Hunter have written to Ms Somerville to seek additional clarity on when the applications will open to ensure the school can be built by its 2025 goal.
Mr Fitzpatrick said: “I understand Dundee City Council has undertaken significant preparatory work to be in a position to lodge a bid for funding to support a new primary at the Western Gateway, as soon as applications open.”
He added: “Stewart and I have written to the Education Secretary to seek additional clarity on when applications will open, in order to ensure that a decision can be reached by the Scottish Government in sufficient time to enable the council to meet its aspiration for the new school to be ready for August 2025.”