Dumfries 'learning town' debate under way
Far-reaching plans to revamp future education provision in Dumfries are to go out to public consultation.
The "learning town" proposal is based around the creation of a new single school for senior secondary pupils.
It aims to offer a broader curriculum for students in S4 to S6 and establish closer links with further and higher education on the Crichton campus.
The initial consultation on the proposals will run until November but could be extended.
Gail McGregor, who chairs Dumfries and Galloway Council's education committee, has moved to allay any fears that the blueprint could pose a threat to the future of the existing four secondary schools in the town.
She said there was "no intention" of closing any site and argued that the move might actually enhance the education they could provide.
The secondary school representative on Dumfries and Galloway Council's education committee, Timothy Birrell, said he believed more time might be needed to win the backing of teachers.
This bold plan raises the prospect of pupils having a dazzling choice of subjects around the time of their 15th birthday.”
He said that while they could see merit in the plans, there remained concern on a host of issues - such as the inclusion of S4 pupils within a new senior school structure.
Concerns about the timeframe for the consultation were shared by the Labour group's education spokesman, Jeff Leaver.
He said it was vital the authority did not rush ahead with the concept without having meaningful consultation and considering all the possible options.
Director of education Colin Grant said: "This is a ground-breaking, innovative project that could benefit everyone if it goes ahead.
"Dumfries could be first in Scotland to begin to be more flexible with our school structure and take full advantage of other educational opportunities on our doorstep.
"This could bring social and cultural benefits to the wider community through innovative practice, making links with employers to promote greater employability skills, and the promotion of enterprise and innovation."
He said it could also help with the economic regeneration of the town.
"Our most important task now is to fully consult with everyone on the details of the proposals, in order to determine the best way forward for Dumfries," he added.
A Scottish government spokesman said: "Curriculum for Excellence aims to provide more freedom for local authorities to develop education services which are focussed on local needs.
"These proposals are welcome and reflect these opportunities.
"It is right that the views of the local community are taken into account and the Scottish government will watch with interest the outcome of this consultation."