Concern is raised as Dunfermline’s expansion fires the population. (Online Report)

The rise of Dunfermline Eastern Expansion is putting increasing pressure on Fife Council as demands for primary school spaces grow higher.

The Dunfermline Eastern Expansion (known to locals as DEX) is a development of a combination of industrial, commercial, recreational and residential areas.                        

Situated in the East of Dunfermline, towards the edge of the town, the DEX will be developed over the next twenty years.    

With the population of Dunfermline currently over 40, 000, the DEX has seen the arrival of hundreds more families to Dunfermline.

This influx of people has resulted in the opening of new supermarkets and the addition of more through-roads to make it more accessible.

However, the number of young families that moved into the residence part of the DEX was heavily misjudged and underestimated.

Bill Walker, a member of the SNP and an MSP for Dunfermline, contacted originally through Facebook, said, “Well this all started in the 1990’s, so it’s been in planning for a long time. But I don’t think they were properly prepared for this extent of young families. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!”

To try and keep up with the number of young families that were estimated to move in to the DEX, a new school was built in the surrounding area.

Masterton Primary School was built as a small school with one class for each age group, and a nursery built in. Unfortunately however, the increasing numbers of children joining the school from the DEX witnessed the closure of the nursery, as the school needed to use it as a classroom seeing as it had too many children for capacity.

“I’m not knowledgeable enough about the school to know much about this area. But it should never have had to happen”, said Bill Walker.

With the failure of this to cover the volume of children needing places in schools, Fife Council decided to build a school bigger than the average primary- Carnegie Primary School- at the other side of the DEX in the hope to solve this problem.

Claire McBride, a Primary School Teacher at Carnegie Primary School, said over Facebook, “It is set to be the largest primary school in Fife, with the capability to be extended if need be. We can at the moment accommodate 17 classes; but we have 9 infant classes, 1 middle class and 1 upper class.”

The school was built with the potential to expand in order to accommodate with the growth of the DEX.

When asked if he thought that the design of the school allows for expansion, Bill Walker said, “It definitely does! I was at the opening of the school (which Alex Salmond cut the ribbon for) and I was extremely pleased. Walking into the new school is magnificent- you can see that it has a huge amount of space available. It definitely has the ‘wow-factor’!”

Claire McBride, as she works there, explained in detail how it allows for expansion, “At the end of each wing there is room for a pod to be built which will allow for more classes. Also, the school can be extended upwards; leaving more space below and resources can be stored above.”

However, Fife Council brought a positive from a negative with the creation of Carnegie Primary School. The school was not only built with the intention to be able to expand, but was also built to be as eco-friendly as possible.

“The building is the only BREEAM [the world’s foremost environmental assessment method and rating system for buildings] excellent award building in the UK that is not owned by the BREEAM people. We reuse our drain water and have a wind turbine which allows us to send electricity back into the grid. Full recycling facilities are available for children and staff. We have under floor heating so there is no waste of energy, and we have sensor lighting which we cannot change; so if there is enough light getting in then the lights will not go on, therefore will not waste energy. We also have an allotment to start growing our own food to use” said Claire McBride.

Moreover, there has recently been a huge push in primary schools to incorporate outdoor learning, with the Curriculum for Excellence supporting this idea strongly.

Claire McBride said, “It is all about the outdoor learning. We have a pond for studying pond life etc. We have a trim trail and football pitch. We have three tree woods on the site which has a campfire area, which we are allowed to take children out to and cook and light fires with. We have a sensory garden and allotments which allow us to grow our own food and herbs. There is also an indoor/outdoor classroom within the building which allows us to do experiments etc. And finally, we have a wet area within the school”.

There were some thoughts however, that the size of the school may impact the children in a negative fashion. Claire McBride turned this worry around however, when she said, “I’d say the size of the school impacts the children in more of a positive fashion rather than negative, as they have lots of space to play in, which is great. Also, having a large campus means that we have a small wood and pond onsite, as well as many gardens, mentioned before as an aspect of the outdoor learning.”

On the other hand however, with the creation of newer, more up-to-date schools, the older, now undersubscribed schools like Canmore, Pitreavie and Pitcorthie may suffer as a consequence.

“Well we’re always very reluctant to close schools, and I’m all for schools in lesser populated areas; but schools have to be where the people live. If we’re forced to close schools then the buildings can be used for other purposes, such as community centres- which we’re always in need of. But since we’ve been through terrific financial difficulties in the last few years, we’d either use the building for another purpose, or sell it”, Bill Walker explained.

With DEX meaning the steady arrival of many young families, positives and negatives are coming hand in hand.

Although it may have started with a severe underestimation, Fife Council has now overcompensated for the error, and has turned it fully into a positive.

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