Coun­cil U-turn on schools axe

De­light as clo­sure pro­pos­als set to be ditched

Dumfries & Galloway Standard - - NEWS - Jackie Grant

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

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