South Scotland

Quarter of Dumfries and Galloway schools at below 50% capacity

Empty classroom Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Many schools in the region have classrooms they no longer need

About a quarter of schools in south west Scotland are operating at less than 50% capacity.

A Dumfries and Galloway Council report said rolls were falling and lots of buildings were no longer "fully suitable" or had excess classrooms.

Figures from 2019 show 26 out of 98 primaries and four out of 16 secondaries were less than half full.

Council policy is to carry out a review of any schools with 50% utilisation or less for a projected six-year period.

The report to the council's education and learning committee follows a "transformation event" held last year with parents, head teachers and unions.

It outlined a "need and a willingness to be brave and accept that change is needed" with the schools estate.

Secondary schools under 50% capacity in 2019

Dalry Secondary2644015%
Kirkcudbright Academy83240949%
Moffat Academy56826947%
Sanquhar Academy65627342%
Source: Dumfries and Galloway Council

Costs per pupil to the local authority are above the national average at both primary and secondary level.

The council said it recognised that planning future provision would "take time" and it was difficult to meet everyone's expectations.

It also outlined a number of key issues being faced, including:

  • how to ensure schools are the right size for their catchment area
  • making sure schools operate cost effectively
  • ensuring management costs in primaries and secondaries were "proportionate"

Among the other challenges being encountered is the fact that nearly 25% of primary pupils attend a school outside their catchment area.

Primary schools under 50% capacity in 2019

Castle Kennedy753749%
New Abbey723549%
St Joseph's1004343%
St Teresa's2244319%
Source: Dumfries and Galloway Council

Capacity figures for the schools will be shared on the council's website to help parents of children going into P1 or S1 to decide where to enrol them.

The local authority has pledged to "work together" with all concerned groups to plan the future of its schools provision.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Moves to shut three schools in the region were dropped in 2017

Analysis: By Giancarlo Rinaldi, BBC news website south of Scotland reporter

The school roll figures come as no surprise in a region with one of the most elderly populations in the country.

Pupil numbers have tumbled but any plans to shut sites tend to face local opposition.

In 2017, a bid to close three rural primaries was dropped but the issue has not gone away.

The council has invested heavily in new schools and its estate still runs to more than 100 properties for about 18,500 children.

Keeping all of the schools open is unlikely to be an option but the journey towards "better and fewer assets" remains a delicate one.

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