Hopes dashed for new Banchory Academy

The replacement of Banchory Academy was the top priority in the local community action plan
The replacement of Banchory Academy was the top priority in the local community action plan

A replacement for ageing Banchory Academy has been ruled out for the foreseeable future.

Council officials have confirmed there are no plans for a new school - identified as the top priority in the local community action plan launched a few months ago.

Local councillor Ann Ross says Banchory Academy is continually being overlooked

Local councillor Ann Ross says Banchory Academy is continually being overlooked

However, it’s been revealed that up to £600,000 could be invested in the next two years on a new ‘Learning Plaza’ on the site of the current swimming pool, which will be decommissioned when Banchory Sports Village opens.

Discussions are under way to provide a new, flexible space suitable for multiple uses and which would introduce an element of open plan learning not currently available at the school. But local councillor Ann Ross says she’s been left “frustrated and disappointed” that the academy is being continually overlooked while plans for new secondaries in other parts of Aberdeenshire are progressing.

Parents and community representatives requested a meeting with council officials to discuss the condition of the current school building and to make representations on the need for a new school in the medium to long term. The meeting, held last week, was told the council’s plans for future investment in the school estate will include new facilities in Fraserburgh, Peterhead, Newmachar, Inverurie and Stonehaven.

But the absence of a replacement for Banchory has concerned the local community, which has highlighted overcrowding and the deterioration of the school building.

The council says it will prioritise its delivery programme according to greatest need and financial constraints

The council says it will prioritise its delivery programme according to greatest need and financial constraints

Local resident Alasdair Ross, who attended the meeting, said: “The promise of imminent investment in the school is very welcome, but this can’t distract from the long-term requirements of Banchory and the surrounding area.

“We will need a new school, and local residents have made their views on that very clear. This issue isn’t going to go away.

“The community believes we should have facilities that match the high performance of the pupils and which are fit for the future, and we are going to fight for them.”

Banchory and Mid Deeside Councillor Ann Ross, who also attended, said the fact that a new school was identified in the communuty action plan as the top priority showed how passionately people felt about the issue.

She added: “I am frustrated and disappointed that Banchory Academy is being continually overlooked, and that our children are being educated in overcrowded buildings.

“I recognise that the council invests in its school estate across Aberdeenshire, and that investment must be made where need is the greatest. I am also aware that financial resources are stretched.

“Plans are progressing for new academies elsewhere in Aberdeenshire, but Banchory Academy does not seem to feature anywhere in Aberdeenshire Council’s plans for their future school estate. We don’t seem to be able to gain traction, and need to have a vision for the future infrastructure of Banchory Academy sooner rather than later.”

The community action plan, luanched in the summer, was prepared by a steering group under the umbrella of Banchory Community Council.

Council chair Mary Lennox said: “I am aware there is no new school likely in the near future but it is important that parents and the community as a whole lobby hard to get it into the council’s capital plan.

“This will not happen unless the community works to do that. The academy is not fit for purpose and is stated to be poor both in terms of condition and suitability of facilities in the council’s own estimation and in national terms.

“The young people of Banchory and school staff deserve good facilities. The strength of feeling in the community needs to be heeded.”

An Aberdeenshire Council spokesperson said: “We are investing substantially in our schools estate across Aberdeenshire and will continue to do so.

“We have already delivered six new primary schools, three community campuses, five major extensions, a comprehensive programme of replacement windows and doors, and we will be delivering a new community campus in Inverurie.

“We are committed to delivering fantastic, sustainable spaces for learning and community use and will prioritise our delivery programme according to greatest need and financial constraints.”