Ancrum Road Primary pupils connect across the miles this Christmas!

With thanks to Mary McGowne, a great update about Ancrum Road Primary School pupils!

The Overgate Centre is keeping the Christmas spirit alive this year with a heartwarming initiative to connect local children with new friends in twin city Alexandria in the USA.

Overgate Air Mail has seen 76 pupils aged between six and twelve years old from Ancrum Road Primary School in Dundee write a letter of festive cheer to new pen pals at Charles Barrett Elementary School in Alexandria, Virginia. The campaign is part of Overgate’s DUNDEE’S 7 CITIES initiative which aims to strengthen ties between Dundee and its twin cities across the world. 

The pupils from Ancrum Road Primary, guided by teacher Kayleigh Anderson, have been busy writing their letters and documenting their experiences of the last twelve months to share with their new American pen pals, along with how each plan to celebrate Christmas this year.

The recurring themes throughout many of the letters demonstrate that no matter if in Scotland or the USA, children share the same dreams for Christmas (mainly presents from Santa!) and have been faced with similar challenges throughout lockdown (annoying siblings, the Scottish cold weather and remembering to socially distance) but remain optimistic for a brighter 2021. 

The letters have been collected by Overgate’s Christmas elves who, by the magic of Overgate Air Mail, are ensuring safe delivery to Charles Barret School in Alexandria. Once the pupils in Alexandria return their own letters to their new Dundee pen pals, a display of the letters that is sure to bring much festive cheer will be created in Overgate for all to enjoy. To complete the campaign, three local winners from Ancrum Road Primary will be selected at random to each win a £30 Overgate gift card.

Picture 1  (two boys standing in red)   Jack Campbell, Joshua Lee, Ailey Mathieson, Gracie Gollan and Chloe Doig
Picture 2  Hannah McInnes, Lucas Sword, Millie Garrick-Orr, Emily Mitchell and Halle McKenzie.

School catchment area consultation – an update #dundeewestend

Last week, I advised that Dundee City Council has launched a consultation on a number of schools proposals.
Part of the proposals see substantial proposed changes to the catchment areas of the primary schools that are feeder schools to Harris Academy.
In the West End, there are significant proposed changes to the Blackness Primary, Victoria Park Primary and Ancrum Road Primary catchment areas.
I can now advise that consultation meetings about the West End proposals will take place on Wednesday 26th February and, again, on Monday 16th March, with a drop-in from 6pm to view the proposals and a presentation and Q&A session at 7pm – all welcome
You can view the full proposals here.

Play On Wheels Easter Holidays events #dundeewestend

Here’s Play On Wheels Easter Holidays events in the West End for local children!
Play On Wheels will be out whatever the weather so hope to see lots of you for some adventures.    Come and say hello and have some fun. 
Everyone welcome and all sessions are free of charge.
Play On Wheels is a Smart Play Network project funded through the BIG Lottery Investing in Communities 21st Century Life programme.

Tuesday meetings

In addition to a number of meetings with constituents yesterday, I also attended :
+ A meeting at the Wasps Studios at Meadow Mill for local businesses in the Blackness industrial area hosted by the council’s consultants who are looking at ways of improving the area in a collaborative way, as part of the council’s review of the local development plan.  
Ideas include bringing forward a masterplan for the area, including improved car parking, ‘greening’ the landscape, better walking links and compatible new planning uses such as creative industries, workshops, some small scale retail and residential development.    
At this stage, these are only ideas and the input of local people and businesses is vital in progressing any proposals.
+ A meeting of the Bonnie Dundee group at the City Chambers.  Bonnie Dundee encourages improvements to the Dundee environment and helps local groups who keep Dundee’s parks, open areas, streets and gardens in good shape.   
We discussed the various areas of Bonnie Dundee’s work including the planters at Dundee Science Centre and West Port, a possible summer West End litter pick and Bonnie Dundee’s input into the garden areas at the new Slessor Gardens in the Waterfront.
+ A meeting of the Ancrum Parent Partnership at Ancrum Road Primary School.   The Ancrum Parent Partnership is the group of parents who have been selected in accordance with the Parent Council constitution to represent all the parents of children at our school. 
There was a very positive discussion about school activities and we also discussed School Crossing Patrollers and road safety near to the school.

Saturday activities …

Yesterday, I was pleased to attend the Summer Fayres at Ancrum Road and Blackness Primary Schools.   Both were really well attended, really enjoyable and really good value for money too – with adult entry at each only £1!
Here’s some Saturday photographs :
A busy Ancrum Primary School Summer Fayre
At the Ancrum Road Primary School Fayre 
Blackness Primary School’s event was equally well-attended
Always a good sport, Gordon Ferrier was back in the stocks!
City Church on Tullideph Road also had their Family Fun Day yesterday

West End Christmas Fortnight Primary Schools’ Art Competition Winners

I was at Tesco Riverside yesterday to meet the store’s community champion Kath Torode – Kath and I are pictured above at a photocall at which, not only did Tesco generously donate to the West End Christmas Fortnight, but also sponsored the West End Christmas Fortnight Primary Schools’ Art Competition.
Each of our four local primary schools – Ancrum Road, Blackness, St Joseph’s and Victoria Park – allowed all P1 and P2 pupils to take part and the winning entries are below.   Well done to Carys, Darci, Josias and Matylda, who each win a Tesco Gift Voucher.   Here are the winning entries below:
Carys Watt of P2A, Ancrum Road Primary School
Darci Reid of P2B, Blackness Primary School
Josias Roma of P2, Victoria Park Primary School
Matylda Karolewska of P1S, St Joseph’s Primary School

Safer routes to school

I have mentioned before my involvement as a member of the City Council’s working group on road/pupil safety outside schools across Dundee.   
As part of this initiative, the City Council and Dundee Travel Active is giving every primary pupil/parent a copy of a school-specific safer routes to schools guide, on pupils’ return to school later this month.
Links to the “Safer routes to school” guides for three of the schools West End pupils attend are  given below – St Joseph’s and Park Place (Victoria Park) Primaries’ guide will be published in the autumn, given the forthcoming move to the new school site:

More West End Celebrations!

This afternoon, I had the pleasure of attending another West End Diamond Jubilee Party – this time at the Pennycook Lane Sheltered Housing Complex off Perth Road and involving the sheltered tenants at both Sinderins Court and Pennycook Court.

It was a lovely, friendly and enjoyable afternoon – here’s a few photos:
And – later on – I attended the superb Community BBQ at the Friary on Tullideph Road, organised by City Church.   Well over 600 local folk attended and a great time was had by all – again a few photos:
This evening, I had a really useful meeting with many of the residents of Ancrum Drive to discuss the parking issues in the street.   The meeting should have been in Ancrum Road Primary School, but the council failed to open up (despite a permit they had given me!) so we were all a wee bit cold by 7.30pm, standing talking in Gibb’s Lane.  But – the positive aspect is that we had a good discussion and I am really grateful to residents for their ideas and input to improve the parking situation for residents in the area.

Our schools deserve better than a Sixty Minute Makeover

I have today highlighted my concerns about aspects of the proposed Dundee City Council Capital Budget and urged that there be a cross-party discussion about ways to improve the proposals to benefit the city’s schools.
There’s much to welcome in the draft capital budget and in particular the proposal to build new primary schools in Menzieshill and Coldside is good news, especially given the state of some existing school buildings.    The total of £20m investment in these two areas will not only bring new primary schools but also community facilities and given the funding level for Menzieshill, presumably new nursery facilities may be possible there too.
However, it is over capital expenditure for other primary schools identified for improvement where I am critical of what is being proposed as the funding is simply inadequate and must be increased.     Seven other schools across Dundee have been identified, including Blackness and Ancrum Road Primary Schools that serve large parts of the West End Ward.  
The recognition of the need to improve facilities at these seven schools is welcome but the amount of funding at only £250 000 per school and that is simply not enough funding to make the sort of modernisation that these seven schools deserve.    It should be remembered that a new-build primary school costs in the order of £9-10 million.      These seven primary schools deserve more than a sixty minute makeover.
I have a specific proposal to make the improvements at Glebelands, Clepington, St Mary’s, Longhaugh, Dens Road, Ancrum Road and Blackness Primary Schools a whole lot better by allocating them £1 million each over the lifetime of the next Capital Plan – four times the proposed funding.
£1m per school is affordable if we consign to the bin another proposed set of expenditure on new headquarters and depots for the Environment Department.   The council has already spent around £35 million on Dundee House and more expenditure on other council offices.   It is about time to focus on our schools and, by abandoning ideas of further council department headquarters and by focussing on schools, we can increase expenditure on at Glebelands, Clepington, St Mary’s, Longhaugh, Dens Road, Ancrum Road and Blackness Primary Schools to £1 million for each school.  
No business case has been brought before a city council committee to make a case for more money being spent on council headquarters buildings.    It would be better spent on our schools.

Ancrum Road Primary School’s Library – 10th Anniversary

Yesterday, along with the Lord Provost and other invited guests, I had the pleasure of attending the celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Ancrum Road Primary School’s superb library – surely one of the best amongst the city’s primary schools.

The school, staff and parent volunteers deserve much thanks for their efforts in creating a lovely, well-stocked library.

Whilst there, and along with Davie Bowman of Dundee United, I met the two Ancrum Road Primary School P5 five-a-side football teams that are playing in the West End Christmas Week Primary Schools’ Football Competition on Friday, kindly sponsored by WestFest.    Here’s the two teams with Davie (back right) and Mrs O’Rourke, Ancrum Road Primary School’s Head Teacher (front right) :

Safety outside local schools

I have raised parents’ and residents’ concerns about inappropriate parking at West End schools on various occasions in the past.

Following implementation of the safer parking arrangements at St Joseph’s Primary School last term (see above), this afternoon I met with the Head of Primary Education, the Head Teacher and our local community police officer, to discuss how well the new arrangements are working.

The results have been largely positive – there will always be some difficulties given the busy nature of Bellfield Street and the school’s proximity to the junction with Hawkhill – but it is clear that the vast majority of drivers are observing the “don’t park right outside the school” safety message.

At the start of the new term, both Ancrum Road Primary School and Blackness Primary School saw the “safer parking” arrangements implemented. This is to be greatly welcomed. The photo below is outside Blackness Primary School in Pennycook Lane.

West End Christmas Week colouring competition winner!

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of presenting Steven Glen of P7a at Ancrum Road Primary School with his prize for creating the best “fireworks safety sticker” in a competition involving the pupils from all Primary 7 classes across the 4 West End primary schools. Steven wins a studio tour of the Wave 102 studios as well as a book token and all class winners have also received book tokens. You can see Steven’s winning entry and all the other entries at
Pictured above are (back from left) – Robin Carstairs (West End Christmas Week pyrotechnician, webmaster and competition mastermind!) and Adam Findlay (Managing Director of Wave 102) and (front from left) – Neil Cooney (Borders Books), Steven, yours truly and Dolly O’Rourke (Head Teacher of Ancrum Road Primary School).

West End Under 10s football team … and River Crescent Residents’ Association …

At lunchtime, the new West End Under 10s boys’ football team played its first “official match” and the photo (right) is of the team at Riverside Playing Fields today with Paul Johnston (Team Manager), Stuart Ferguson of Barnetts Motor Group and myself.

It is great to see an under 10s football team established in the West End – a totally new initiative – and I am very grateful to Paul Johnston of West End Community Council, whose drive and initiative has made this possible.

We also owe a debt of gratitude to Barnetts Motors Group, who have sponsored the team football strips and to the local primary schools – Blackness, Ancrum Road, St Joseph’s and Park Place – for their involvement.

After getting a wee bit wet standing in the rain at Riverside Playing Fields, I was guest speaker at the River Crescent Residents’ Association AGM (held at the Botanic Garden) – a great turnout of residents and useful discussion on local issues.

Busy weekend …

Yesterday, Janet and I had the pleasure of attending Ancrum Road Primary School’s Summer Fete and Fun Day and as you can see from the photo above, there was lots of activity in the playground (and also great stalls in the school itself).

All credit to Colin, Depute Head Teacher, for agreeing to go into the stocks! (See below).
Later on, we had a trip to Pitlochry (again see below) – a fabulous day!

And in the evening, a family party as Janet’s cousin and her husband are across visiting from the Netherlands (again, see below).

Had the joy of a car tyre puncture today on the way to deliver leaflets in the ward – tyre now fixed and leaflets delivered before the worst of the Sunday rain came on!

Ancrum Road Primary School

Prior to the creation of the West End Ward, there were three primary schools in my former Tay Bridges Ward – Park Place, St Joseph’s and Blackness.
Over the years, you get to know the schools well – and realise how lucky the West End is to have such excellent primary schools, with dedicated staff. Their assistance with community events – such as the West End Christmas Week – is invaluable.
With the creation of the new ward last May, another primary school was “added” to the ward area – in the shape of Ancrum Road Primary School. The Head Teacher invited me to visit yesterday and I had a thoroughly enjoyable morning seeing round the school and meeting the staff. I’d like to thank the two Primary 7 pupils who gave me the guided tour – they are a credit to the school, and you cannot help but be left with the impression that Ancrum Road is a superb, warm, achieving school community and a credit to the Education Department.

One feature of Ancrum Road PS is its Victorian classroom (see below) – an educational tool used not just in Dundee but with visits from neighbour authorities’ schools too.

The school has an excellent website (click on headline to view) and, in the best of traditions, a blog too!

The school’s Summer Fete and and Fun Day is on 31st May and I have no doubt will be well supported by the local community.

Under 10s Football Team Launch

Currently the West End area does not have a youth football team for Under 10 boys.

Thanks to the offer to establish and run one by a member of West End Community Council – Paul Johnston – and the kind assistance of the City Council’s Leisure and Communities Department and the University of Dundee’s Institute of Sports and Exercise, an “Open Day” for boys of the appropriate age (Primary 4 – going into Primary 5 in August) together with parents/guardians is being held this Saturday (17th May) from 10am to 12 noon at the University of Dundee’s football facilities at Riverside.

Paul has great experience of running youth football and I am most grateful to Barnetts Motors for their interest in sponsoring the team, once established.

The four local primary schools (Ancrum Road, St Joseph’s, Park Place and Blackness) have kindly distributed details to parents/guardians – and we are hoping for a great launch on Saturday! Click on headline above to view more.