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Education and Economic Boost For Wick

3rd August 2011

Major investment, totalling more than £57 million, is being planned for schools in Wick over the next five years.

As well as the construction of a new community secondary school within the existing site of Wick High School, at an estimated cost of £37 million, the Council will consider commencing a Statutory Consultation on the possible replacement of the town's primary schools with two new purpose built facilities.

At the Education Culture and Sport Committee on Tuesday 9 August members will be asked to consider a consultation on two options.

To the north, it is proposed to amalgamate Hillhead and North Primary Schools in a new school building on land available within North Primary School. The school, estimated to cost £10.5 million, would cater for approx 390 pupils.

To the south, it is proposed to join the South and Pulteneytown Academy Primary Schools in a new school to be built on the site of the existing High School playing field site and the site of Pultneytown Academy PS.

The new school would cater for 340 pupils at an estimated cost of £9.225 million.

The report sets out the recommendations emanating from the option appraisal exercise carried out on future primary school educational provision in Wick. The report seeks approval to carry out a statutory consultation - to run from 15 August - 23 September - in relation to each of the proposals. The outcome of the statutory consultation, which will include public meetings in Wick during September, will be reported to the ECS Committee in November 2011.

The Sustainable School Estate Review (SSER) in Caithness commenced in January 2011 with a commitment to review future educational provision currently delivered via 18 primary schools. Caledonian Economics Limited were appointed on a framework agreement to work in partnership with the Council to deliver the review.

It has since been agreed not to include the three primary schools in Thurso at this stage nor any of the rural schools in Caithness following the Scottish Government's introduction of a 12 month moratorium on rural school closures in May and because information on future school rolls will be clearer.

The option appraisal report identifies the following strengths in relation to the above recommendations:-
ēImproved and enhanced opportunities for learning and teaching
ēIncreased possibilities for pupil entitlement and equal opportunities
ēAdded value and value for money - wraparound childcare, increased opportunity for community facilities and services
ēImproved traffic management

The report also highlights the opportunity for a single procurement of the High School and the two new primary school.

Councillor Bill Fernie, Chairman of the Education Culture and Sport Committee, who represents Wick, said: "I believe that these proposals combined give a huge shot in the arm to Wick and the east of Caithness and pushes a number of buttons for education, sports and leisure facilities for the whole community. When completed these projects mean that Wick will have one of the best provisions for educational facilities in the Highlands. In addition such a huge investment goes a long way to providing an economic boost to Caithness with all the spin offs for jobs and economic activity that will result across many sectors of our local economy.

"Whilst education is at the forefront of the proposals, there many additional pluses for the area in helping to ensure that it goes a long way to promote regeneration. These proposals are truly transformational for the area and I am sure will be a huge attraction for potential businesses and employees if they choose to relocate to Caithness."

Councillor Gail Ross, Wick, said: "As a parent, I welcome any investment in our local schools that will improve the learning environment for our children. Three new schools in Wick over the next five to six years is tremendously good news for not just parents and children in the area but for the wider community as well. This is a welcome boost to the economy in the far north and I look forward to seeing the plans and the work actually beginning. We have to make sure now that the builds are kept within budget and delivered on time. We should also make sure that the existing buildings are dealt with appropriately and not left to fall into disrepair."

Councillor David Flear, chairman of the Caithness Ward Business Group, also welcomed the proposed spending in Caithness.

He said: "This is great news for Caithness. We also have plans for new Council office accommodation in the centre of the town to replace Market Square, so this another huge boost for the area."

Education Culture and Sport Committee
Agenda and Papers for 9 August 2011
sustainable School Estate Review in Caithness is at Item 12

Wick Schools Consultations

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