11 November 2022
Source:  BAE Systems / Holmes Miller
A local authority in Renfrewshire, Scotland, has admitted that a new primary school designed by Holmes Miller does not have enough room for future pupils
Dargavel Primary School opened in January this year with enough room for 463 pupils following a multi-million-pound investment by developer BAE Systems on the site of an old munitions factory in the village of Bishopton.
BAE, as landowner, built the £18 million school as part of a Section 75 agreement with Renfrewshire Council, which was responsible for specifying a capacity of under 500 students.
The council has now admitted to miscalculating the numbers of students who will attend the school in future years. On Monday members of its education policy board agreed to buy six temporary classrooms at a cost of £2 million, the council said.
Writing in a letter to parents, the director of children’s services, Steven Quinn, said he was ‘very sorry’ to inform them about an ‘error’ that was made in 2017 when projecting student numbers. Subsequently, the size of the Holmes Miller school is now inadequate.
Renfrewshire Council says student numbers will peak at 1,000 in the next decade – making the newly built school at least half the required size. The portable classrooms will be needed until a ‘longer-term solution’ is found.
Leading Scottish architect Alan Dunlop told The Herald that the new extension to Dargavel primary school could cost Renfrewshire Council as much as £17 million.
The council has disputed this figure but none of the extra cost will be covered by BAE, whose Section 75 agreement regarding the school and the wider Dargavel Village development has expired.
‘I am bewildered how such an ‘error’ could be made,’ Dunlop told the AJ. ‘Moreover, the full scope of the project was apparently developed and confirmed through a number of design workshops involving the developer, architect, design team and client, again over an extended period of time.
Dargavel primary school by Holmes Miller opened this year
Source:Holmes Miller / BAE Systems
‘If BAE as the developer knew that the school would be too small and did not raise it, then that would seem to me to be a real issue.
‘Similarly, if Renfrewshire Council knew that the school would be too small but pressed on, that would also be a concern. However, nothing surprises me these days about the procurement of public projects, including schools and what goes on.’
Local politicians have also criticised the local authority for the miscalculation, with Scottish Labour MSP Katy Clark telling The Herald she was ‘flabbergasted that it [had] taken five years for the council to flag this up as an issue.
‘There is extensive evidence that school pupils’ ability to learn effectively is affected by their physical environment. It is unacceptable that this panicked solution appears to have been arrived at with no consultation with parents or the local community.’
Renfrewshire Council told the AJ the school had enough capacity for the current year but added: ‘We now know we will need to provide additional space for pupils starting from August 2023 and that is why we are taking steps now to deliver six new classrooms before the start of the new school year.
‘This will create room for everyone until a longer-term solution is developed. We are examining the options to manage future capacity with the intention to finalise those plans next spring.’
Quinn, speaking on behalf of the authority, said an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the miscalculation will be carried out and the findings published.
A spokesperson for BAE Systems said: ‘The capacity of the new Dargavel Primary School was determined by Renfrewshire Council for 440 pupils in 2018. BAE Systems delivered Dargavel Primary School to the agreed design in 2021.’
Holmes Miller said it could not comment.
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