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Education / Government confirms funding for new Brae school project

SIC leader Emma Macdonald says she is ‘delighted’ – but adds that the government would only part-fund the project

THE IDEA of a new Brae High School has taken a step forward after the Scottish Government confirmed it would offer funding for the project.

The Brae Campus project is one of ten projects which will receive a share of the third phase of Scottish Government Learning Estate Investment Programme worth between £450 and £500 million.

There is set to be further dialogue with the government about the details of the offer.

Unlike the funding model for the new Anderson High School, which was completed in 2017, the Scottish Government’s new model for building schools provides money on a 50:50 basis and comes as revenue funding over a period of 25 years after completion of the project.

Brae School is considered to be no longer fit for purpose, and the council’s preferred way forward at this stage is a new build.

Current estimates have put a new build at around £40 million, which is more than double of some initial predictions.

No final decisions have yet been made by councillors about going ahead with the project.

The news was welcomed by the council’s political leader Emma Macdonald, who then added a word of caution saying the government would not fund the whole project.

The council’s outline business case will now need to be reworked and put in front of elected members to consider the financial implications of accepting the funding offer.

The Shetland North councillor said: “Although this is really good news and we are delighted to receive a recommendation that the government will give us some money, ultimately it still come down to a process of business cases and the council having to make a decision.

“There are financial implications as they are not paying for all of it.

“Education for our young people is a priority for this council, and we do need to make sure we look after our school estate. We do need to make sure that that is fit for the future, and sometimes to do have to make choices which means you do have to spend money.”

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Chair of the council’s education and families committee, Davie Sandison, added: “I’m extremely pleased to hear this news of funding for a new campus to replace Brae High School.

“We need to examine the detail of the funding package, so that councillors can consider the full business case and agree how this will fit into the council’s overall spending plans.”

SIC convener Andrea Manson, who also represents Shetland North, said it was “very good news for the North Mainland”.

“We now need to look at the offer and to the future – there are many ways to improve education in the area and improve the outcomes for the next generations,” she said.

The primary school building at Brae was built in the 70s and the secondary building followed in the early 1980s.

It initially offered learning up to secondary four but in 1993 it expanded to fifth and sixth year, and it is Shetland’s only school covering nursery to S6. Across the departments there are 330 children on the roll.

Education secretary Jenny Gilruth said: “I am determined to deliver excellence and equity across Scotland’s schools, and ensuring that pupils are educated in modern, state of the art facilities is an important part of that.

“This latest phase of the £2 billion Learning Estate Investment Programme will continue to support local authorities to deliver improvements in our school estate, and ensures continued progress in ASN provision in particular.

“This latest round of investment means that every Scottish local authority which submitted a bid has now received funding for a project in Phases 1, 2 or 3 the Learning Estate Investment programme.

“As a direct result of Scottish Government investment, the proportion of schools in “good” or “satisfactory” condition has increased from 61 per cent in April 2007 to 90.7 per cent in April 2023 and this investment will build on this remarkable progress.

“We will continue working with COSLA to explore how we can deliver further improvements in the school estate, as well as ensuring provision in those areas experiencing population growth.”

The £2 billion Learning Estate Investment Programme is a joint programme with local authority organisation COSLA and follows on from the successful £1.8 billion Scotland’s Schools for the Future Programme, which delivered 117 new or refurbished learning facilities across Scotland from 2009 to 2021.

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