Buckie and Forres must wait to 2024 for decision on cash for new secondary schools

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Forres Academy. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.
Forres Academy. Picture: Daniel Forsyth.

Moray Council is not expecting hear this year if it will get Scottish Government funding to build replacement secondary schools for Forres and Buckie.

It’s also been stated that problems with crumbling RAAC concrete at Forres Academy are likely to “exacerbate” the issue.

Both Forres Academy and Buckie High School fall below the national standards for their structural condition.

Moray Council has applied for funding from the Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP), with Forres the number one priority out of the two projects.

An announcement on the application was expected about nine months ago, but that has not been forthcoming.

Speaking at today’s meeting of the education committee, its chairman stated that although both towns needed a new school, it was right to prioritise Forres.

Cllr Kathleen Robertson (Forres, Conservative) said: “Buckie has a school that’s still standing. Forres is in danger of collapsing.”

RAAC concrete was discovered at Forres Academy in August.

It closed to pupils last week, although they are all expected to return on Friday.

Buckie Community High School.
Buckie Community High School.

Buckie councillor Sonya Warren (SNP) sought assurances that a swimming pool would form part of a new secondary school for her town.

She also asked if it would be big enough to cater for extra pupils, given all the new housing planned for Buckie.

Andy Hall, the council’s acting head of education resources and communities, stated that consideration would be given to a growing school population, and that a pool and other leisure facilities were included in the plans at the moment.

However he added there was an issue of “affordability”.

To to balance its budget the council has to save £20 million over the next couple of years.

Business cases for both projects are being put together at the moment.

The council puts the expected combined costs of doing this at £154,860.

If the bids are successful the LEIP could fund up to 50% of the costs of replacing the schools.

Initial estimates put the cost at £87.4 million for building a campus in Forres that would cater for pupils all the way from three to 18 years old.

The cost for a similar facility in Buckie, with the addition of a swimming pool, has been estimated at around £95.7 million.

The prices to simply replace the secondary schools have been put at £66 million and £75 million respectively.

Regardless of any Scottish Government funding coming forward, the council has a duty to bring all its schools up to a minimum standard.

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