An Arbroath town councillor has criticised Angus Council’s schools project after it was revealed one of the new buildings was already over-subscribed.
The brand new Timmergreens Primary School opened its gates for the first time last week and according to reports is already 14 pupils over its capacity.
This has raised the ire of Councillor Ewan Smith who was part of the campaign to improve Arbroath’s school stock and was elected on that basis.
He said: “I have absolutely no doubt that the new school has great facilities, looks very fresh, modern and incorporates the latest technology and is energy efficient.
“Any new school building should be built that way.
“I’m also sure that - given how hard they work - the teachers and school staff will be making the most of it to ensure the children’s learning continues to progress.
“But there is absolutely no doubt, whatsoever, that in terms of size - Timmergreens is already not fit for purpose.
“For three years I warned that the proposal to half the capacity of the old school was crazy at a time of rising birth rates.
“Every single projected school roll figure we were shown as councillors showed that the roll would be close to - if not oversubscribed.
“But because there wasn’t enough money to build a future-proofed, fit-for-purpose school now, we have one that was purely based on cost - not the actual needs of the Timmergreens catchment.
“It’s an embarrassing situation when on Day 1 you are herding in 14 pupils more than the school is designed for.
“Some children are not being taught in a proper classroom and a general purpose space that is supposed to benefit the whole school can’t be used for its purpose.
“I stand by my belief that we could and should have looked at major refurbishment for all our schools.
“That would have met the budget and could still have attracted external funding from the Scottish Government as several other Councils have gone down this route.
“The capacities of the schools could have stayed at similar levels and rooms in schools could have been adapted to create even better teaching environments.
“I firmly believe that a large section of the Arbroath community - parents, staff and teachers - could see sense in this and the consultation clearly reflected that a majority wanted refurbishment over new build.
“But I was completely outvoted every time I proposed this at Council.
“I accepted the decision to progress with new builds at Warddykes and Timmergreens but warned at the time it was a decision that could come back to haunt Angus Council.
“It’s sad to say it is already haunting Angus Council because we have an overcrowded school that has had to deny some parents a place for their child at the school.
“The schools didn’t even fall within the parameters of their budget.
“They cost more than £1 million than was originally planned so we can’t even say they were ‘built to a budget’.
“As a Council we’ve overspent and under-planned and the result is the children have been left short-changed.”
Councillor Smith added: “We have a real ongoing issue now at Timmergreens that won’t go away overnight.
“Many Councils in England closed down schools and built smaller schools in their place. Now they are having to build more schools to fit in all the children.
“The same thing has happened in places like Aberdeen where schools have been built too small and older, derelict schools are having to be re-opened or costly extensions are being built because they failed to plan for the future.
“I can see a situation in the not too distant future where this may have to happen in Arbroath, Carnoustie or Forfar where there are many schools very close to capacity.”
When contacted for a comment, an Angus Council spokesperson responded: “The children and staff of both Timmergreens PS and Warddykes PS have settled in very well to their new school buildings.
“These new schools provide inspirational learning environments for children and adults to work in.
“Staff have described their new working environment as ‘amazing’ and they have worked hard to ensure everything was ready for the children starting school.”
Read the full story at www.arbroathherald.co.uk