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Carse of Gowrie school catchment area review agreed at 11th hour

Abernyte Primary School.
Abernyte Primary School.

Parents have welcomed an eleventh-hour ‘change of heart’ as councillors agreed to formally review the catchment area of a Carse of Gowrie school.

Abernyte Primary School, in rural Perthshire, has just 12 pupils and parents have been fighting to secure its future with a sustainable school roll.

Education chiefs had committed to assessing whether a catchment review and nursery provision would help attract parents from outside of the local area.

A bumper P1 intake in August will take the school to its highest pupil roll since 2010.

The number of pupils is expected to soar to 20 in August when nine P1s enrol, taking the school roll to its highest since 2010.

Both classrooms will be required until at least 2024/25 and a new teacher will be recruited to accommodate the increased intake.

Last-minute motion

A report submitted to Perth and Kinross Council’s lifelong learning committee on Wednesday originally suggested the school’s catchment area be retained at a maximum of 44 pupils.

It also initially ruled out building a nursery at the school.

Education officers wrote to parents in the Inchture and Longforgan communities, however there was “insufficient” response to support a catchment change, according to the report.

However a last minute motion from convener Caroline Shiers saw councillors agree to a statutory consultation on whether the school’s catchment area is extended to include a part of Inchture Primary School’s, north of the A90.

The report’s wording was also amended as Sheena Devlin, executive director of education, said the council was not ruling out introducing nursery provision all together but there was no significant demand for it currently.

It would be a great option for making this school more sustainable, it’s fantastic that we have got this little school so far.”

John Rebbeck, SNP education spokesman at the council, said: “We welcome the change of heart, it’s the right thing to do, but the anxiety felt by the school community at Abernyte could have been avoided had the political administration at Perth and Kinross Council recognised the need for a formal catchment review before it became apparent opposition councillors were going to suggest one.”

However in seconding the motion, Conservative councillor John Duff said developing a sustainable school roll was the “ultimate prize” given the school’s history.

And the door is very much left open for the development of an outdoor nursery, which is favoured by the parent council.

Woodland-style nursery

Gerard McGoldrick, parent council chair, said he was “delighted” an outdoor nursery had not been ruled out completely.

The group says a woodland-style nursery based at the playing fields next to the school would be the ideal move for the community, especially as it would cost significantly less capital than an indoor extension to the school building.

Councillors, however, said the feasibility of the outdoor nursery would need to be considered, such as shelter and access to toilet facilities.

The Abernyte community have faced a turbulent few years as council chiefs opted to close the rural primary school.

The Abernyte community fought to save their school from closure.

The decision was overturned by the Scottish Government last year and local parents have since fought to increase the school roll to ensure the school is sustainable.

Mr McGoldrick added: “We’re disappointed that the outdoor nursery isn’t being approved at this time but I’m hopeful that we will see councillors consider this once this option is explored further.

“It would be a great option for making this school more sustainable, it’s fantastic that we have got this little school so far.”

Carse of Gowrie councillor Beth Pover also welcomed the committee’s decision to review the catchment area but said the eleventh-hour amendment was “chaotic”.

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