Here's when Scotland's first private finance schools will be moving into Falkirk Council ownership

Work is well underway to return the first schools in Scotland to be built with private finance to full ownership of Falkirk Council.

Five high schools – along with around 95 cleaning, catering and janitorial staff – are expected to transfer from Class 98 ownership to the council in August 2025.

The final handover will include a payment of £5 million to Class 98 as part of the agreement that the council would pay either £5 million or the market value of the school sites, whichever was lower, at the contract’s end.

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However, it is expected that the new arrangements will save Falkirk at least £3 million a year, as the cost to the council of running the facilities has risen with inflation to nearly £13 million a year.

Larbert High is amongst the schools in the first tranche moving into full council ownership. Pic: Michael GillenLarbert High is amongst the schools in the first tranche moving into full council ownership. Pic: Michael Gillen
Larbert High is amongst the schools in the first tranche moving into full council ownership. Pic: Michael Gillen

Falkirk Council will become fully responsible for all management, operation and maintenance of five schools: Bo’ness Academy, Braes High School, Graeme High School, Larbert High School and the former Carrongrange School – now used by Larbert High School and the Kinnaird Primary School Thistle Wing Annexe.

Members of Falkirk Council’s education, children and young people’s committee heard that work has been ongoing to make sure they are returned in good order.

And as Falkirk was the first local authority to enter the new contracts, it will also be the first to leave.

Councillor Iain Sinclair, the SNP administration’s education spokesperson, said he believed the move would bring “real and lasting benefits to our communities”.

He said: “There will be many people across Scotland and likely the rest of the UK watching with great interest. What cannot be understated, however, is the real opportunities bringing the schools into council ownership will bring.

Over the years, the cost of the PPP schools has been controversial and Mr Sinclair admitted that while the new schools would probably not have been built at all without the private finance, today it would not be regarded as “best value”.

The overall cost for 2024/25 is £21.3 million, with Scottish Government support of £8.6 million, leaving the council to pay £12.7 million.

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Mr Sinclair said: “Recurring savings, which could be significant is one aspect of this but furthermore – and in my opinion a much more exciting prospect – is the opportunities we will have to better use these facilities for the benefit of our communities.”

Last June, councillors agreed that the schools should return from private hands last June and the end of the lease will be formally agreed in August.

A handover inspection, over four days of the Easter holidays, examined each facility inside and out to determine any work needed.

While the schools are generally in good condition, some work will need to be done before the handover is complete.

Labour group leader, Councillor Anne Hannah, particularly welcomed the commitment that all of the new schools will have solar panels installed to help reduce electricity costs.

Head of Invest Falkirk, Paul Kettrick, gave warning that some community access to the schools for sports and leisure may be constrained during next year’s summer holidays 2025.

The move will mean catering and cleaning staff returning to council management, along with grounds maintenance staff.

The approach roads and car parks will become the responsibility of the council’s roads team.

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There is some ongoing discussion about some of the management positions.

Members heard that as the scheme will be the first in Scotland to end there will be ‘rigorous project management’ and a project and development coordinator will be appointed to oversee the final transition.