A new £180 million shared learning campus to replace fire-hit Woodmill High School is to be built within the next five years, the Scottish Government has announced.
The campus, which will bring together pupils, students and staff at Woodmill High, St Columba’s High School and Fife College is to be partially funded by the Scottish Government, with the rest of the money to come from Fife Council's own coffers - or through a new funding scheme, education secretary John Swinney has confirmed.
Woodmill's pupils are currently being accommodated at other local schools in the area, since the fire ten days ago, which devastated the school building. A 14 year-old-boy from Kirkcaldy appeared in connection at Dunfermline Sheriff Court the following week, charged with wilful fire raising to danger of life. He made no plea and bail was granted.
Fife Council said the temporary accommodation was a "short term measure" and "medium term" solutions for the future were still being worked out. By the time the new campus is built in 2024, most of the current Woodmill High pupils will have left school.
The proposed joint learning campus would create "modern, fit for purpose and low carbon facilities" and is set to cost is between £150 million and £180 million. The Scottish Government has confirmed it will invest up to £90 million in capital to fund the College portion of the campus, and up to 50 per cent of the overall cost for the schools element.
The concept of a "super campus" in Fife had already been discussed for the former Shepherd Offshore site on the edge of Dunfermline, but hit a stumbling block due to the requirement for “significant” additional funding from the Scottish Government.
Fife Council had already allocated £50 million towards a secondary school replacement and refurbishment plan, but that budget covers not just the proposed joint campus – but four other schools.
Mr Swinney said: “Woodmill High School was devastated by the fire and it is clear that Fife Council, Fife College and surrounding schools have made a tremendous effort to find alternative accommodation and minimise disruption to pupils’ learning.
“Since the fire ten days ago, I accelerated discussions with Fife Council and Fife College and I am now very pleased to confirm we support the development of a brand new joint learning campus."
He said that locating the two schools and Fife College on the same site would give pupils easy access to a greater variety of subjects and qualifications.
Convener of Fife Council's Education and Children's Services committee, Fay Sinclair said: “This is a really exciting opportunity. We have been looking at ways to expand, replace and improve our school buildings for some time and a shared campus will open up so many different learning options and routes for our young people to access the careers they want.
“We have already held community engagement sessions on the future of education provision. This will inform our work with Fife College to bring forward firm proposals for a new development, which the community will be consulted on before plans are finalised."
She added: “Today’s announcement gives the Woodmill community reassurance about the long term plans for their school, as we work through short and medium-term arrangements at this difficult time.”
Fife College Principal Hugh Hall said: “The proposals for the new campus, incorporating two High Schools, the College and a University hub are learner-centred, innovative and progressive and will be transformational for education in Scotland.
“The College has been working with Fife Council in formulating the proposals and together we will be moving at pace to take forward proposals to create a unique learning environment in West Fife.”
The government said the schools element of the campus would be funded as part of the £1 billion learning estate investment programme through a new funding model. Local Authorities will borrow from the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) or use their own capital monies to pay for the upfront cost of constructing a new learning facility. The Scottish Government would pay for ongoing maintenance of the new facility and fund other outcomes to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Fife Council will consult with the community before plans are finalised.