Steps to be taken to relieve pressure on primary schools

New Elgin – one of four schools that will exceed capacity by 2018

A Moray councillor has said that it is “too early to say” if and when new primary schools could be built in Elgin.

The comment came from the chair of the children and young people’s services committee on Wednesday, where capacity issues at Elgin’s primary schools was discussed.

Councillors agreed measures aimed at meeting occupancy pressures on the seven primary schools in Elgin – more than half of which are expected to exceed their functional capacity by 2018.

Warnings that the current zones for schools – catchment areas around each in which children are expected to be allocated to specific schools – was in need of updating was issued by Paul Watson, the local authority’s continuous improvement manager.

He warned: “Failure to address the capping and zoning issue will increase the cases of local children not being able to attend their nearest school.”

Councillors agreed to initiate measures that would cap school rolls and greatly reduce the options available to parents who might wish to place their children at schools outwith the areas in which they lived.

Hearing that Elgin would likely require at least one and perhaps two new primary schools, committee chair Councillor Anne Skene said it was too early at this stage to say if that can happen, adding that building firms in the area should be making a contribution to the cost of providing new schools.

She added the hope that the Scottish Government would also part-fund new school developments: “There is not doubt that we need to address the anticipated shortfall of school places in Elgin,” she said.

Councillor Skene added: “When councillors agreed an moratorium on school closures earlier this month we also agreed that we would urgently need to address the situation in Elgin.

“Changing zones of schools is often a contentious issue, but I think it’s right in 2014 to look again at it and it may help redress the balance that sees some schools struggling to fill places with others turning pupils away.”

SNP Councillor Graham Leadbitter agreed that it was time to take action over the lack of school places in the town, saying that zoning provided “challenging decisions” for councillors, parents and the schools themselves.

He said: “Fundamentally what is needed is either urgent and major expansion to existing Elgin schools or the construction of a new school to address the long-term and significant shortage of school places which will reach the hundreds.”

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