Taking account of social dynamics?

 I attended my third community evening in Dunbar this week regarding Dunbar Primary School provision.

Due to a rapidly expanding population in Dunbar it has become necessary to enhance the primary school provision in Dunbar earlier than had been previously predicted. There are a number of options – all of which involve the construction of a new building.

As is the case with all such developments the council officers representing finance, property services; planning and education met to undertake an option appraisal where the criteria for selection included: cost; education; flexibility for expanding provision in the future; and traffic considerations

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 left B, C an D.

Taking all factors into account the officers – of whom I was one – preferred the option B.

However, what has become very apparent is that the concern of the community does not focus solely upon educational criteria but is based upon a strong fear that a new school South of the Railway (which might only service the educational needs of the new houses which have been built in Dunbar over the last 7 years) would split the community of Dunbar between “old” and “new” and – as was suggested on Thursday evening – along socio-economic lines. 

The question I’m left with is whether or not council officials such as myself can ever take such criteria into account?

Our reasoning for recommending a new school on the proposed site was influenced by the fact that it was a better educational solution; significantly cheaper (we have duty to procure within a best value regime for the benefit of the whole of East Lothian); enables safe routes to school; and significantly reduces travel distances and associated environmental impact)

Considering these factors objectively – and in isolation from the social dynamic factor  – one can see why we are recommending the solution for a new school. However, such a decision does not satisfy the wishes of the community.

It has been suggested that it should be left to a referendum of the people of Dunbar but how does a council ensure appropriate distribution of its resources if every community makes selections without any reference to the financial or educational consequences of such a decision?

2 thoughts on “Taking account of social dynamics?

  1. Hi Don,

    I am looking at this from a slightly different perspective from most of the people who’ve commented previously – I’m not a parent but I am a teacher (almost) and I have Dunbar very close to my heart. I don’t know what my preference would be, but I have an idea, it largely depends on this question which may have been answered before without me noticing: has a definite site been identified for any new build, and where?

    The question of who should make the decision is a difficult one, a group of elected representatives is good but I can’t help but feel that the say of the town should be given more weight than that of the rest of East Lothian. A decision that impacts badly on Dunbar will be felt harder and longer than a decision that impacts East Lothian badly.

    It’s a little late for an alternative suggestion but is it out of the question to have a scattering of 3/4/5 smaller infant schools throughout the town – one towards the Harbour, one by the new Asda, one in Belhaven, one at Queen’s Road/Walker Homes, one by the existing primary?

    It’s clearly a tricky decision to take, I’m not sure any of the options are ideal, personally I think if I had kids I’d be keeping half an eye on houses for sale in places like Stenton or Innerwick.


  2. Stuart

    The only possible site is South of the railway – which is what gives rise to many of the concerns

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