Sixteen-week-old Patrick O’Hanlon may be among the first pupils at a new Western Gateway school in Dundee – which could now be built by 2025.
Like other children in the growing suburb, Patrick faced either a five-mile trip to Ardler Primary School or going to another school such as Invergowrie, in Perthshire, or Liff, in Angus, if he was lucky enough to get a place.
But after being accused of passing the buck on delivering a new school for the growing community, Dundee City Council children and families service committee has agreed to seek council cash for it.
Although the timeframe cannot be guaranteed, it now aspires to have the £16 million school completed in the latter part of 2025, after parents feared they may have to wait many years more.
This means Patrick – due to begin school in 2026 – could be one of the first P1s to start at the Western Gateway school.
His mum Heather Rothney, 41, is among residents who battled for the school they were promised when they bought their homes in the area, where hundreds more houses are to be built.
She said: “Unfortunately, it’s going to be too late for some of the parents whose kids are already at primary but for the likes of myself with a young one starting in five years’ time it’s very, very positive that he will be starting at the new school.
“We don’t have the worry of taking him in the car or putting him on a school bus, which for a five-year-old would be so daunting.
“His friends will be there, and he can scoot to school with me walking behind, trying to catch up!
“Having a school really helps build a community, with parents meeting at the school gates.”
He can scoot to school with me walking behind, trying to catch up!
Mum Heather Rothney
Despite some £600,000 – around £5,300 per household – being collected in ‘roof tax’ for a new school on the 346 homes built by Springfield since 2015, the council said it had no funding for such a large project in the next five years.
Instead, a report by officers proposed to seek money from the Scottish Government – a move residents feared would mean a long delay before the school was built.
However, an amendment by committee convener Councillor Stewart Hunter led to approval in principle of construction of the school and a pledge to seek funding imminently from both council budgets and the Scottish Government.
Western Gateway Community Group chairman Bill Batchelor is pleased but says the school is not a fait accompli.
He said: “Fortunately, they’ve listened to what we have said.
“We’ve reached a major milestone.
“We need to make sure we keep that determination going until we see the first kids running round the playground.”
Paul Clancy, executive director of the council’s children and families service, said it will take around three-and-a-half years to deliver the school after funding is confirmed, which may not be until February or March next year.
When politicians listen to communities they make better decisions. That is what has happened here.”
Councillor Charlie Malone
Lochee Labour councillor Charlie Malone said: “The community has worked incredibly hard to deliver this school for their families and their neighbours.
“When politicians listen to communities they make better decisions. That is what has happened here. Local voices have been heard loud and clear.”
Fellow Lochee councillor and North East Scotland Labour MSP Michael Marra said: “This is a huge about-turn from the SNP administration after years of unacceptable delay and their unbelievable denial of the promises that were made.”
However, Mr Hunter said: “The administration group has long stated quite clearly that we are committed to building a primary school in the Western Gateway.
“The report we brought to committee [on Monday evening] gave a clear commitment to building the school and seeking Scottish Government funding to pay for it.”
But, he said, he was happy to make that commitment more explicit through his amendment.