More than 200 schools have shut down in Scotland over the past decade, prompting fresh concerns over falling classroom standards and overcrowding.
A drive among cash-strapped councils to “rationalise” the school estate has been blamed, with many buildings in poor condition replaced by multi-school campuses.
Nicola Sturgeon has proclaimed that education will be the top priority of her government while she is First Minister. But despite millions being spent to rebuild or refurbish schools across the country by the Scottish Government, there are now 2,524 schools in Scotland compared with 2,730 ten years ago, according to figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats through parliamentary questions.
There are also concerns that many new schools aren’t big enough to cope with soaring pupil numbers and are poised to be overcrowded with a few years of opening.
Lib Dem education spokesman Tavish Scott said: “Some newly built schools are not big enough so pupils are being crammed into less space.
“Meanwhile, Scotland has fallen down the international education rankings and parents rightly remain concerned that some schools are bursting at the seams or are not equipped to best support their children.
“School buildings have to be designed to cope with the current school roll and projected increases. These figures suggest that the government need to review how that is done.”
A spokesman for Education Secretary John Swinney said: “Under this government 651 schools have been rebuilt or refurbished, and by the end of this parliament we will have delivered 112 new or refurbished schools across every local authority in Scotland under the Schools for the Future programme – more than double the number envisaged when the programme started. And unlike the Lib Dems when they were in office, these new schools are being delivered without using ruinously expensive PFI deals.”
But concerns have emerged that some of the new schools being delivered aren’t big enough. Almost £80 million was spent on cutting-edge facilities for James Gillespie’s and Boroughmuir high schools in Edinburgh. But they will be over-capacity by 154 pupils by 2020, the council has admitted.
Scotland also recently recorded its worst ever performance in an international survey and has fallen behind other parts of the UK.
Ministers said any decision to close schools is down to local councils – which have seen hundreds of millions of pounds slashed from the budgets in recent years as the impact of austerity continues.
A spokesman for teaching union the EIS said communities must be consulted on the closure of any school. He said: “It is important that school communities are properly consulted and involved when any decision is taken regarding the future of any school, and that the future needs of the community are factored in to the planning process.”