School move tipped to give Falkirk youngsters a better future

Special needs pupils will move from Weedingshall to Laurieston after Easter
Special needs pupils will move from Weedingshall to Laurieston after Easter

Some of Falkirk district’s most ‘at risk’ children will soon be benefitting from an even better classroom experience to help them have an even better chance of a positive life as adults.

Pupils attending the Mariner Support Service at Weedingshall in Polmont, Falkirk Council’s education unit dedicated to delivering community based learning to youngsters unable to be part of the ‘traditional’ mainstream school environment because of their social and emotional issues, are moving to a new location.

The switch to the former Focus School in Laurieston which was run by the Oakwood Education Trust is expected to be made after the Easter break.

The project has been included in a list of 19 schools to be built or refurbished through the Scottish Government’s Schools for the Future programme.

A £230 million spend, the final part of a £1.8 billion budget to deliver 112 by 2020, was announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday and been toasted by Falkirk district’s constituency MSPs Michael Matheson and Angus MacDonald as ‘great news’.

Yesterday (Wednesday) the government was unable to say how much of the £230 million is coming Falkirk’s way - and the council was insisting the “majority” of the estimated £470,000 to buy the building and complete the alterations is already budgeted for in its capital improvement programme.

The facility at Weedingshall is attended by around 20 children of secondary school age from across the council area and supported by 20 staff.

Teachers and education bosses work tirelessly to help make them feel part of the learning system.

The Mariner Support Service was established in 2012 following the amalgamation of the Education Service’s Falkirk Day Unit at Camelon Education Centre and the Educational Assessment Unit at Weedingshall.

Councillor Alan Nimmo, spokesman for education, said: “We are delighted with the acquisition of the former Focus School. This site provides us with the opportunity to deliver improved facilities and learning experiences for the pupils and staff currently at the Mariner Support Service.

“We are obviously very pleased the Scottish Government has recognised the merits of this exciting project and will be providing us with a financial contribution towards the overall costs.”

Michael Matheson claimed: “This government is working hard to improve educational standards across the country to make sure that every child in Scotland has the ability to achieve their potential.

“Part of that is making sure they have the right physical environment to learn in. This announcement is fantastic news for Falkirk Council. The new Mariner Support Service will be a fantastic modern building that pupils, teachers and the whole community will enjoy for generations to come.”

His SNP colleague Angus MacDonald added: “There has been talk of upgrading these facilities since the days when I served on Falkirk Council’s education committee, so Monday’s announcement is great news.

“Since 2007 we have worked with local authorities to rebuild or refurbish 607 schools resulting in the number of children educated in ‘poor’ or ‘bad’ condition schools falling by 60 per cent.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We don’t have individual breakdowns of funding yet but the government contribution for a secondary school is nominally 67 per cent.”