Written by Scott Campbell.
Published at 11:42 GMT on Saturday, 10th November 2012.
Abronhill High School campaigners say new North Lanarkshire schools show how Cumbernauld is being treated disproportionately

Picture is copyright of Save Abronhill High School Working Group.

CUMBERNAULD campaigners have continued to show their outrage at North Lanarkshire Council as they open two new school campuses across the region.


The 5th November saw  pupils in christen their £44 million state-of-the-art building in Coatbridge's Drumpellier Country Park, known as Buchanan High School, St Ambrose High School and Townhead Community Centre.


Councillor Jim Logue, Convener of Learning and Leisure Services, said: "There won't be a better educational campus and community leisure facility anywhere in the country.


"Our contractors Balfour Beatty have done a marvellous job and the project has been nominated for national awards - including the prestigious Considerate Constructors National Site Award.


"We are determined to give our young people the best possible start in life and this new campus does just that.


"In addition, the new facilities will shortly become a sports hub, available for community use at evenings and weekends."


Ellen Douglas, Head teacher of St Ambrose High School, said: "The new school is absolutely wonderful and has exceeded all our expectations. Our pupils and staff are just amazed at how good it is - I think everyone will really look forward to turning up to school each day.


"The campus offers a stimulating, creative environment for our pupils, making high quality learning and teaching possible. It features a wide range of educational facilities as well as considerably enhanced sport and music provision and social areas - all of which our old school sadly lacked."


Margaret Fannon, recently appointed Head teacher of Buchanan High School, added: "I'm really looking forward to starting my new role at the school in such a stunning campus, set in such a beautiful landscape.


"It's been designed to meet the needs of our pupils and we are looking forward to working together in close partnership with staff and pupils from St Ambrose High School to make the campus a success."


"The building has been designed with sustainability very much in mind", explained Archie Burns, Balfour Beatty's Project Manager.


"Early in the construction process we discovered badger setts within the grounds of Drumpellier Country Park - just next to the construction site.


"Badgers are protected species and so we invited pupils from the schools to help us plant bushes around the setts to give them cover.


"We've been able to recycle around 92%of the waste, which would normally have gone to landfill; and 69% of the material has come from within a 2.5 mile radius of the site."


However, anger has been outlined towards the opening, with Save Abronhill High School campaigners saying that the new school is an example of council tax money draining away from Cumbernauld to other parts of North Lanarkshire, disproportionately.


In addition, online campaigners have also rubbished the comments of James McKinstry, head of the council’s Learning and Leisure Services, who told a congregration of pupils and parents at Abronhill High School on 24th October that a multi-purpose campus, such as the new Coatbridge facility would not be possible.


Facebook campaigners have since branded him a “bare-faced liar” over the comments, and have said that it represents an unequal balance of council resources, focused away from Cumbernauld.


As if the news of a new multi-purpose wasn’t hard enough for campaigners to swallow, North Lanarkshire Provost Jim Robertson unveiled a plaque to mark the official opening of Coltness High School, only a week later.


He said: "The school is designed to provide pupils with the best start in life. The range of facilities available is truly impressive: from traditional subjects like maths, English and science, to computing, music and sport. It means that no matter what talent a young person has then that potential will be nurtured and developed.


"The contractor Graham construction has done a marvellous job and built strong working relations with the staff at Coltness."


Reverend Iain Murdoch, Chaplain of Coltness High School gave the blessing and dedication.


Michael Graham, Executive Chairman of Graham construction, added: "The school has been totally transformed and is unrecognisable from my first visit in 2009.


"This has been a tremendously important project for Graham and I feel we have made a positive contribution to the community."


Donald Ferguson head teacher of Coltness High School, added: "I think it is worth noting that the motivating factor of the new school has probably played a big part, but it is a fact that the school's strongest academic performances have been in the last 3 years in the midst of the refurbishment work.


"Once again I thank all the pupils parents and staff for this great team effort - not least our recently retired Depute Head Teacher, Mrs Jane Reid who helped ensure the transition went smoothly."


Councillor Jim Logue, Convener of Learning and Leisure Services, gave the vote of thanks. He said: "This is the 39th school which has been formally opened either as a new build, or completely refurbished, by North Lanarkshire Council since 2006; and we are determined to continue progressing the school modernisation programme."


The school was completed over three phases and work started on the first stage in September 2009.


The occasion ignited a war of words between Cumbernauld and Kilsyth’s SNP MSP and council leader Councillor Jim McCabe over the use of private finance initiative (PFI) and public-private partnership (PPP) schemes. Although, campaigners have also seized on the issue to show that Cumbernauld is treated disproportionately than the rest of North Lanarkshire, calling once again for an end to the Labour control over the local authority.
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