Schools represent the biggest investment in infrastructure in North Lanarkshire. They are at the heart of towns and communities, and we have committed to replace every school not rebuilt or remodelled since 1996.
This is the kind of promise people would expect of any council with ambition. Indeed, we have spent around £1billion on new schools since 1996. But I’m the first to admit we have not always got this right.
In the past, we identified the need for a new school, identified land owned by the council in that area and built. These are outstanding new schools, with excellent facilities, but they have sometimes not been true community assets.
What do I mean by that? Our vision is that schools should be places for the whole community, not just the school community. They will be town and community hubs, with services of the council and other partners co-located within them. So that they can be sustainable, we have a need to reduce the number of building assets across North Lanarkshire and so they will, in some cases, be merged, combined and integrated with other community and partnership assets.
To do this, we have six guiding principles:
- There must be inclusive, universal provision; a hub must serve the whole community and offer universal provision of services as a default.
- There must be a sense of community ownership; central to this is learning and teaching but the hub must be an asset for the whole community.
- Hubs must have maximum availability and usage; they will operate from early morning until late at night. They must be multi-functional and be able to be used throughout the day.
- Critically, hubs must be designed with the community; the council does not have a monopoly on good ideas. People in communities know what will work for them and we will work with those people throughout the development of design options.
- Linked to this, each hub must be tailored, bespoke and representative; each one will be unique to ensure it meets the needs of each community. This is emphatically not a one-size-fits-all approach.
- Finally, each hub will maximise the services on offer; the services available at each hub should complement, not compete with, services already available in the same community.
Town hubs will be large and are likely to include early years, primary and secondary education alongside a range of other services. They could have more comprehensive sport and leisure facilities and will be co-located with council services such as libraries, community facilities, employability and training and older adults’ services. Health services, GP surgeries and, for example, office space for start-ups could be here, along with green space and play areas that families can use.
Community hubs will be smaller and are likely to include at least one school and some sport and leisure provision. Small community hubs may exist in areas where there is no requirement for new education facilities, but where there is a need to replace older facilities such as libraries, community centres or health centres.
Our plan for North Lanarkshire is clear: we must achieve inclusive growth with a concentration on the most deprived areas, and our hubs will be prioritised in these towns and communities. They must be deliverable with respect to the availability and condition of land we have available.
We will focus on areas where we can rationalise our assets and where there are clear opportunities to integrate council and other services, particularly where these services are being delivered in a fragmented way from older buildings at present, and they must link to our wider plans for towns, housing and infrastructure.
These are big opportunities for people in towns and communities. We are delivering on our ambition to make North Lanarkshire the place to live, learn, work, invest and visit.
Above: Pictures depict the interior design of a town hub. All pictures provided by North Lanarkshire Council.