Council U-turn on schools axe
Delight as closure proposals set to be ditched
Plans to close Ae Primary and two other rural schools are set to be scrapped.
Education officials are now recommending the council abandons the controversial moves.
The new proposal has yet to be ratified by councillors at the end of the month but the U-turn has been described as “wonderful” news by members of the community.
If the decision is rubber-stamped, no new bid to shut the schools can be made for five years.
Ae Community Council secretary John Magill said yesterday local people are “delighted”.
He added: “We are really looking forward to working with the council over the next five years to raise the profile of the school and build up numbers. We’re really positive about the future of the school now.”
Community councillor Steve Fisher added: “It’s wonderful. We are really pleased that the outcome is likely to be that the school will be open for at least another five years.
“That will give us time to build up the school so we don’t get caught in this situation again.”
The council was proposing to shut Kirkbean, Garlieston and Ae schools in a bid to save money.
But the scheme came to a shuddering halt following the intervention of Sandy Longmuir, chairman of the Scottish Rural Schools Network campaign group.
He described the consultation process as an “utter shambles”.
Mr Longmuir accused the authority of deliberately misleading parents with financial arguments that didn’t add up.
And he stated his belief the council was guilty of multiple breaches of the Schools (Consultation) Act 2010.
He emailed council leader Elaine Murray expressing his concerns and within a week the consultation scheme had been put on “pause”.
Parents and politicians opposed to the closure scheme were this week informed that councillors would be recommended to retain the schools when the education committee meets on November 30.
Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell said: “Only a few months ago the council seemed absolutely convinced that these schools needed to be closed despite the vital role they play in rural education.
“Now, it seems that for once they have listened to the views of local people and I hope that this would be the start of a welcome change in attitude from the council when making such big decisions.
“I hope the recommendations will be agreed and that pupils can continue to enjoy and benefit from education in their own rural communities without the threat of closure looming large.”
South of Scotland MSP Colin Smyth added: “I welcome the recommendation to have the schools stay open along with the five-year moratorium on any future consultation.
“The council has listened to the powerful case put by local communities.”
Thumbs up Community councillor John Magill at Ae