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CONSULTATION ON PROPOSED SCHOOL ESTATE

CHANGES IN THE WEST END:

SOME QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS FROM PARENTS

March 2009

The Council's proposal can be found at:


www.dundeecity.gov.uk/reports/reports/69-2009.pdf

The city council must be commended on its aims to provide “new schools with a high-
quality teaching and learning environment with modern resources “ and to ensure that
“new buildings are energy efficient and the number of places is matched with the
projected rolls”.

During the current consultation we must seek to determine whether the proposal is a
good way to achieve these aims for our children. If it is then we should support it. If it is
not then the proposal should be rejected and a fresh appraisal of the options sought
involving all stakeholders from the outset.

This document summarises some of the serious questions and concerns raised by a
group of parents based on their current understanding of the proposal.

If you share all or some of the concerns and questions outlined below, please provide a
written representation to Gillian Ross Pond by Monday 6 April. It is important that
you do this because if you do not, Dundee City Council will assume that you are
satisfied with the proposal. Please ask for confirmation of receipt of your letter. Her
contact details are:

Mrs Gillian Ross Pond


PPP Project Director
Dundee Schools PPP Project
Floor 8, City House
Overgate
Dundee DD1 1UH
Tel.: 01382 435161
Email: Gillian.rosspond@dundeecity.gov.uk

To contribute to the debate, read others’ comments, and share


information, please visit:
westendparents.blogspot.com
THE CURRENT PROPOSAL
(1)
The current proposal is to build two primary schools and a nursery school on the Logie
site during 2010/2011. The nursery will provide 180 places (and possibly more). Roll
projections for 2011/2012 are 188 for Park Place Primary School and 257 for St Josephs
Primary School.

IS THE PROPOSED SITE SUITABLE FOR TWO PRIMARY SCHOOLS


AND A NURSERY?

The site is too small


The area of the proposed site does not even meet minimum statutory requirements. The
2
Logie site (Figure 1) has an area of 12,700m (1.27 hectares). Some of this area is
restricted: it includes a category B listed building (the old janitor’s house) and many
(2)
mature trees that are protected by Tree Preservation Orders .
(3)
Scottish government regulations state that:

• every primary school with 141-315 pupils shall have a site of not less than
2
6,000m
• a nursery school designed for 90 pupils shall have a site of not less than
2
2,250m . (This figure is probably too low because the nursery will probably have
larger capacity than 90).
2
Since there are two primary schools, that gives a total of at least 14,250m . Even if the
entire Logie site was available for the new build, it would still be considerably smaller
than this required area.
(3)
Furthermore, Scottish government regulations state that:

• every primary school with 141-315 pupils shall have available and in close
2
proximity to it playing fields not less than 3,000m
• a nursery school with 90 pupils shall have available and in close proximity to it a
2
garden playing space of not less than 837m
(4)
SportScotland guidance states that a typical single stream primary school should have
use of a synthetic grass or grass pitch for 9.8 hours per week. The two schools therefore
need 19.6 hours per week.

The council has confirmed that there will not be playing fields at the proposed Logie site.
Where then will playing fields in close proximity be available?

A shared playground will need to be large enough for both schools to use simultaneously
so that the quality of education is not affected. (Pupils would be distracted if the
playground was being used by the other school during their lessons).

A 2005 House of Commons Education and Skills Committee report concluded that
"school grounds are a vital resource for learning. Capital projects should devote as much
attention to the outdoor classroom as to the innovative design of buildings and indoor
space". A 2004 Ministerial Review Group on Physical Education reported that future new
or refurbished facilities should ensure well
planned space for physical education and physical activity appropriate for the needs of
(5)
both schools and the wider community .
The proposal would squeeze the children onto a site that is clearly too small and would
deny them the space to which they should be entitled according to Scottish government
regulations.

Concerns over parking


Parking is a major planning concern. The proposed site will need to incorporate access,
parking and drop-off for at least 625 pupils. The council has not provided any
information about how this might be achieved safely.

Further concerns about the site


• Dundee City Council has indicated that it will “build up” because the site is so
small. It has indicated that the primary schools are likely to be at least three
storeys high and that the nursery could also have multiple storeys. This is
unusual and clearly not ideal.
(6)
• There is “a very large electricity sub-station in a large compound” next to the
site. There is evidence of a relationship between prolonged exposure to the
electric and magnetic fields emanating from such sub-stations and increased
(7)
risks of childhood leukemia . There is also an environmental noise impact.
• The proposed site is overlooked by tenement housing.
• Is it true that two tenements that overlook the site are reserved to house
homeless people, the majority of whom are ex-prisoners, including many sex
offenders?
• Is it also true that a street opposite the site has a high proportion of drug users?
• The Al-Maktoum Foundation was granted full planning permission in January
2006 to build a cultural centre on the Logie site. This has not been progressed.
Why not?
• Planning was granted to the Al-Maktoum Foundation subject to the proposal and
completion of a scheme to check and remove any contamination in the land.
However, there has been no activity on this apart from an initial ground
inspection.

Figure 1: The proposed Logie site showing the electricity substation.


WERE THE OPTIONS FULLY AND FAIRLY APPRAISED?

Detailed option appraisal not made available


(1)
The report to the Education Committee states that “a detailed option appraisal has
been undertaken before arriving at the recommendations”. When asked to produce this
detailed option appraisal, the council eventually admitted that there was nothing they
could make available other than the cursory information provided in the report to the
Education Committee. When asked to explain the summary costs given in the report, the
council said that such calculations were commercially confidential and could not be made
available. To the best of our knowledge, no-one being consulted has been able to
understand how the Net Present Values given in the report were obtained.

The refurbishment option was rejected using criteria that have not
been defined
Option 4 in the report is to refurbish Park Place and St Joseph’s to increase the life of the
buildings by approximately 25 years, an option that is considerably cheaper than the
proposed option. This option was rejected by the council because it did not meet three
“non-monetary” criteria :
i) Satisfies long term demand (capacities)
ii) Satisfies long term demand (property)
iii) Deliverable while schools operational
Criteria i) and ii) have not been defined. No further written explanation of why Option 4
cannot satisfy these criteria has been provided.

The option to merge Park Place and Blackness was not fully
explored
Option 3 in the report involves merging Park Place and Blackness. Why was this merger
not fully explored?

The option of developing the St Joseph’s site was not considered


The combined St Josephs/Bellfield site is approximately the same size as the proposed
site and has many advantages. Why was its redevelopment not even considered as an
option?
Responses to this question given by the council during the consultation process have
been:
1) “It is not a neutral site”.
2) Without selling the St Josephs site, the council cannot afford to build a new
school.
Where do the supposed concerns about “neutrality” come from?
The council confirmed that £7.6M is already available.

IS THE CONSULTATION PROCESS BEING CONDUCTED PROPERLY?

No consultation during option appraisal


Parents were not consulted during the course of the option appraisal mentioned in the
(1)
report to the Education Committee . The Scottish government official guidance on
(8)
Option Appraisal advises that: “Throughout the course of an option appraisal, you will
need to ensure that all those people with an interest in the outcome of the project are
consulted. A lot of options can be generated through consultation, while others may be
ruled out before a detailed appraisal takes place as a result of stakeholder feedback.”
This guidance appears to have been ignored by Dundee City Council.
The guidance also advises that “if new information becomes available it is important to
revisit the consultation process with all interested parties”.

Consultation meetings
A large number of teachers were present at the St Joseph’s consultation meeting at 7pm
on 18 March 2009. Several parents have reported that this was intimidating and
discouraged open debate. The meeting was stopped after about 90 minutes when
parents still clearly wanted to ask further questions and make further comments. Despite
this, the meeting was ended with a request by the council for a show of hands to allow
them to gauge the level of support for a new school at the proposed site. There had
been no indication to parents prior to the meeting that any such ‘vote’ would be taking
place. Clearly, if parents had known there would be a show of hands this would have
impacted on attendance at the meeting. The show of hands indicated very mixed opinion
across those parents present. The council have stated that they will not provide parents
who attended consultation meetings with any written record of the questions that they
noted, or even of the headcount, until after the deadline for written representations.

Details on basis for St. Joseph’s Parent Council support are not
available
There was only one Parent Council meeting held on 18 February to discuss the limited
information available at that time about the new school. This information was taken
mainly from newspaper articles. The St Joseph’s Parent Council consultation meeting
with Dundee City Council was held at 6pm on 18 March, immediately before the parents’
consultation meeting at which it was announced that the Parent Council was in support
of the proposal. There is concern over how the PC Chair managed to arrive at the
conclusion that the proposal was sound and had wide support with the limited
information at hand and without properly consulting the parent forum and all the PC
parent members about their concerns and views. There was no vote conducted within
the Parent Council regarding support of the proposal. The only form of communication
that had been provided with parents was a note inviting parents to the consultation
meeting and requesting that questions be provided to the Parent Council Chair. The
communication never asked for a view or vote from the Parent Forum. Only four parents
shared their questions with the PC Chair; other parents opted instead to raise their
questions and concerns through other means (i.e. during the consultation meeting, by
writing or contacting the council directly, or by asking to be represented by other
members of the Parent Council). Members of the Parent Council who could not attend
the 6pm meeting sent partners as their representatives. They were excluded from the
meeting. One of the excluded partners had been entrusted by other parents to present a
list of questions and to represent their views. Therefore, the views of the Parent Forum
could not have been properly represented and used as a basis for the Parent Council
supporting the proposal. No agenda and no written record of this statutory meeting have
been made available, and it is not clear whether such documents even exist.

Children misled
The day after the meeting, St Joseph’s pupils came home from school reporting that
they would be getting a new school with ensuite toilets, huge play areas complete with
swings, slides and playframes, and saying that they had been told how good this would
be. Some are now expecting a party to mark the occasion. Given that the consultation
process is not finished and that there is no detailed plan for the schools, the setting up of
these expectations in the pupils’ minds is entirely inappropriate.

(1) Report to the Education Committee on School Estate Improvements in the West End
of the City, 26 January 2009. http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/reports/reports/
69-2009.pdf
(2) Dundee City Council Planning Application No. 05/00780/FUL Cultural Centre Proposed
in Blackness Road, 2006. http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/reports/plan_apps/
05-00780-FUL.pdf
(3) School Premises Regulations (Scotland) 1967 as amended in 1973 & 79
(4) School Playing Fields: Planning & Design Guidance, SportScotland, 2007.
http://www.sportscotland.org.uk
(5) Report of the Review Group on Physical Education, Scottish Executive, 2004.
http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2004/06/19466/38538
(6) Dundee City Council Planning Application No. 06/00103/FUL, 2006.
http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/reports/plan_apps/06-00103-FUL.pdf
(7) Ahlborn A et al., Review of the Epidemiologic Literature on EMF and Health,
Environmental Health Perspectives 109, Supplement 6, 911-933, December 2001.
http://www.icnirp.de/documents/EPIreview1.pdf
(8) Option Appraisal – building our future: Scotland’s School Estate, Scottish
Government, May 26, 2004. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2004/05/19436/
38226

To contribute to the debate, read others’ comments, and share


information, please visit:
westendparents.blogspot.com