End of year message from Councillor Jeff Leaver, chairman, Education Services committee

As chairman of our Council’s Education Services committee, I’m very proud of our young people in Dumfries and Galloway and their achievements. As we eagerly await the results of exams sat recently, I’d like to wish pupils the very best of success and thank parents and staff for all their support and hard work. I very much hope that it will be another year of rising results.

As the school year draws to a close, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect on some of our achievements over what has been a momentous year for Education Services in Dumfries and Galloway.

Our Council has an agreed Capital Investment Strategy covering the period 2014/15 to 2023/24. Councillors have agreed to invest in a number of priority projects up to 2017/18. During 2014/15, £6.2m was invested in these projects, including Dumfries Learning Town and Dalbeattie Learning campus. In addition to the major priority projects, £36.1m has been invested in a range of smaller projects including £6.3m in school buildings.

Dumfries Learning Town
This project supports our Council’s priority of providing the best start in life for all our children. It is a substantial investment in our schools in the burgh. A significant amount of work has already been done and is ongoing to develop and deliver the vision of Dumfries Learning Town, its physical capital projects and operational education aspirations. We’re creating schools that are fit for the 21st century and are at the heart of our community, giving all our local children and young people an equal chance to fulfil their potential.

A series of stakeholder engagement events, held in June, gave the local community an opportunity to be part of this journey. Around 2,400 interested people came along to participate. Members of the Schools for the Future (SFTF) team and representatives of delivery partners (Graham and hubSW) discussed the proposals and recorded comments and feedback, which will now be used to influence the design process. One parent commented, “A very good informative and open discussion with very passionate people considering the future of Dumfries’ young and people in the community. An exciting prospect/project for the area that is overdue. All the best with following up on the plans.”

Dalbeattie Learning Campus
This is an exciting and innovative project, that will deliver a range of educational and community benefits under a single roof. Our vision is to create a flexible, modern, inclusive and sustainable facility for the community of Dalbeattie, which will support attainment, achievement and participation. Comprising new nursery, primary and secondary schools with associated infrastructure, parking and landscaping, the project will create a major new public building.

Our Schools for the Future team has engaged with staff, pupils and other stakeholders to ensure that the design will meet user needs and aspirations. The main halls, teaching spaces and sports facilities will be available to community groups, clubs and organisations, enabling the asset to be used far beyond school core hours.

The planning application was approved in February 2015, preparatory work is underway and construction work is scheduled to start in autumn 2015 with completion scheduled for summer 2017.

Recruiting Teachers
Along with other mainly rural councils, we often find it difficult to recruit and retain enough teachers. It has been particularly hard to recruit primary school teachers for the west of our region.

In May, we received the go ahead to introduce a ground breaking scheme offering existing education staff the opportunity to retrain as teachers. The scheme subsequently received the backing of the Scottish Government.

Our unique Grow Our Own Teachers initiative offers graduate employees of our Education Services the opportunity to retrain as teachers, studying locally for a post graduate certificate of education while still being employed by the Council and earning a wage. Our aim is to provide qualified primary teachers to fill vacancies in parts of the region where it has often been hard to recruit and retain teachers. As the successful applicants already live and work in our region, they’re more likely to stay here during their teaching careers. 10 additional places were made available at the University of the West of Scotland’s Ayr campus for academic year 2015/16. We received 30 applications so our initiative has been an outstanding success.

A lot of hard work went into developing this scheme and I’d like to commend the education officers who worked extremely hard to achieve the outcome we sought.

Happy Holidays
Finally, I’d like to wish all pupils and staff a very enjoyable, relaxing and safe summer break. You deserve it!

Councillor Jeff Leaver
Education Services Committee