I recently spoke to parents and members of the Dunbar community about the option appraisal taking place to review primary school provision in Dunbar.
The driver for this review is the exceptional population growth taking place in the town. For example, the predicted intake in 2010 is 184 which would necessitate 8 Primary One classes.
I won’t go into all of the details which will be published this week on the ELC website but I will reflect upon the thinking which influenced my position on the option appraisal.
There were 5 options:
A. Do nothing – not an option really given the growth in population and predicted school roll of 1,253 by 2014;
B. Build a second primary school in a green field site;
C. Build an infant school (P1-P3) on a green field site and use the current primary school as an upper primary school (P4-P7)
D. Build a new upper primary school on a green field site and use the existing building as an infant school;
E. Extend West Barns Primary School – this has been discounted due to a traffic management review which demonstrates that it could not accommodate any increase in roll.
Options A and E can be discounted – which leaves B, C an D.
In Wednesday’s presentation I focused upon the educational justification for my decision to support option B – i.e. a new school (nursery to P7) on a green field site.
Advantages of the Infant and Primary school option:
1. A key concern of the community (although not necessarily an educational factor) is that it enables all children in the town to go to the same school and therefore doesn’t cause a split between different areas in the town.
2. All pupils would get to know each other (although compromised by the very large numbers)
Disadvantages of an Infant and Primary School:
1. This option does not give us any flexibility if population growth exceeds current estimates as the Upper primary will be 784 in 2013. We need to to come up with solution which can accommodate expansion if the population grows faster than planned. The Infant/Upper primay school option does not afford that flexibility.
2. We would have a huge infant school of 510 pupils. There would be 184 pupils in P1 and the pupil management challenges presented by such numbers would compromise many of the educational opportunities which are offered to children in our primary schools -e.g. visits, trips, extra-curricular activities, etc.
3. Lack of senior pupil (P6/P7) to act as mentors/buddies.
4. The very large early year groups would result in exceptional traffic congestion as parents arrive at school to drop off and pick up their children. This could present concerns for pupil safety.
5. The additional transition from at the end of P3 to a new school gives the potential for pupil regression as they settle into a new environment. Our focus in the authority is to see education as a 3-18 experience and we would like to reduce such transitions wherever possible.
6. It is established good management practice to move teachers between year groups to ensure they gain as wide a perspective as possible on the curriculum and levels of attainment in every part of the school. By splitting the early years from the upper years this practice cannot be accommodated.
Advantages of two primary schools:
1. The two schools would have school rolls of a reasonable size ((605 and 545)which would ease management challenges and ensure that the extent and delivery of the curriculum is not compromised.
2. No potential drop off in attainment due to transition.
3. Continuity of learning from nursery to P7.
4. Traffic congestion greatly reduced – not compromising pupil safety.
5. Mentoring and buddying by senior pupils easily established.
6. All teachers work on a contimuum where they can move between year groups and stages.
Disadvantages of two schools:
1. Potential split in the community with one part of the town – (the new part) being split from the more established area of Dunbar – although this concern could be allayed by a careful drafting of the catchment area. I should point out that if this were to happen that it would involve a very comprehensive community consultation process.
There are obviously challenges facing us in the next four years but we should be able to address these through 4 temporary units which will be installed this summer and a further 4 next summer. Other challenges such as dining and PE will be addressed though careful management.