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Pupil number forecast casts doubt on viability of some Aberdeenshire schools

By David Porter

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Education Children’s Services publish School Roll Forecasts for all primary and secondary schools in Aberdeenshire on an annual basis and this Thursday councillors will see the latest projections.

This report provides the updated 2023/24 based school roll forecasts for each school in Aberdeenshire and highlights those schools expected to exceed published capacity or operating significantly under capacity across each of the six Council areas.

The 2023 pupil census shows that there are 20,566 primary pupils and 15,869 secondary pupils in Aberdeenshire, a reduction of 299 primary pupils and an increase of 151 secondary pupils since September 2022.

Between 2019 and 2023, only Kincardine and Mearns saw a net rise in primary pupils, while all six areas saw a net rise in secondary age pupils.

Officers continue to monitor and review schools which are over 100 per cent capacity and the growing number under 50 per cent capacity in line with Aberdeenshire’s Learning Estate Strategy – Movement Towards a Sustainable Estate and which looks at the viability of a school when the roll drops below economic viability.

In total 16 primary schools are expected to see their roll drop to less than 20 pupils by 2028.

Aberchirder Primary
Aberchirder Primary

For Banff and Buchan - Aberchirder School, Bracoden School, Fraserburgh North School, King Edward School, Portsoy School and Tyrie School are under 50 per cent and by 2028 this will increase to include Banff Primary School, Rosehearty School, Sandhaven School and Crudie School.

Tyrie, Crudie and King Edward are all projected to have less than 20 pupils by 2028.

For the Buchan area - Boddam School, Burnhaven School and Peterhead Central School are under 50 per cent, with this expected to also include Hatton (Cruden) School, Crimond School, St Combs School, Kininmonth School and Maud School by 2028 with Kininmonth projected to fall to less than 10 pupils.

Formartine has two schools over 100 per cent at Foveran Primary and Oldmeldrum Academy, with both expected to continue to see a rise through to 2028.

Schools under 50 per cent include Arnage, Slains and Tipperty Schools in the Ellon Cluster, Barthol Chapel and Udny Green Schools in the Meldrum Cluster and Fintry School in the Turriff Cluster. Statutory consultations are underway for the closure of Easterfield School and Fisherford School.

Daviot and Auchterless Schools are also expected to fall below 50 per cent by 2028, with Udny Green moving above that level and Slains, Tipperty, Barthol and Fintry are all noted as having less than 20 pupils with Tipperty down to just nine.

In the Garioch area, Kemnay Academy is over 100 per cent and continues to see an increasing roll.

Chapel of Garioch, Port Elphinstone and Skene Schools are all at under 50 per cent but Port Elphinstone is expected to have an increased roll if the housing development at Crichie progresses.

Hatton (Fintray), Keithhall, Oyne and Premnay Schools are projected to fall below 50 per cent by 2028.

Kincardine and Mearns has Porthlethen Academy over capacity and Luthermuir and Kinneff at under 50 per cent with Banchory Devenick, Bervie, Catterline, Glenbervie and Mill O’Forest Schools expected to drop to the level by 2028. Kinneff School is expected to have the largest fall in pupil roll during that period with a predicted roll of just seven pupils by 2028.

In the Marr area, Alford Academy which is over capacity is expected to fall back to 96 per cent.

Fourteen schools in Marr are currently operating below 50 per cent utilisation - Ballater, Crathie, Finzean, Kincardine O’Neil, Logie Coldstone, Lumphanan, Lumsden, Strathdon, Tough, Cairney, Forgue, Glass, Largue and Rhynie Schools. Clatt School continues to be mothballed for the current session.

While Finzean, Kincardine O’Neil and Forgue Schools will see rolls rise, Aboyne Primary, Tarland, Tullynessle, Crathes and Drumblade Schools are also expected to fall below 50 per cent by 2028, with Crathie, Logie Coldstone, Lumsden, Strathdon and Tullynessle all having less than 20 pupils.

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