Angus education chiefs have been told lessons must be learned from the handling of the consultation into plans to close Stracathro primary school after the proposal was formally consigned to the bin.
Campaigners have been assured the future of the 17-pupil primary is secure – at least for the remaining life of the current administration.
However, there is lingering anger and sadness over the way the “bombshell” was dropped on the community in January.
Stracathro was the first primary earmarked for closure under the authority’s ambitious 30-year education blueprint which will result in other, yet to be identified, schools being closed.
In an emotionally-charged address to the full Angus Council, Stracathro parent council vice-chairwoman Lee Ann Waddell described the impact on the community.
“When I stepped into this chamber 100 days ago to the whispers of ‘don’t waste your breath, you won’t get them to change their mind’ I fully believed that we were going to have to take this all the way to the top,” she told councillors.
“You can’t begin to understand the detrimental impact the past three months has had on my family and others from the school.”
She said the community appreciated that the council had ended the process now, rather than leaving it hanging over the summer.
But she added: “Many lessons can be learned from how this whole consultation has been handled.
“There appeared to be genuine surprise at the hostility shown by the community from the outset, however had the officers had the courtesy of consulting with the school their intentions in advance, and engaged with the community directly instead of just dropping a bombshell from a great height back in January, a lot of this stress could have been avoided.”
“The consultation paper was clearly steered towards closure and we were invited to represent based on this and this alone – not on providing the council with any viable alternatives.”
And in a closing plea, she added: “Please don’t undermine or underestimate the value that Stracathro Primary School adds to Angus Council’s stock. It is a valuable asset to be nurtured, not run down or closed.”
Council leader and Brechin and Edzell Independent Bob Myles insisted the process had been properly carried out.
“At all times we said this was not a done deal and the aim was to conduct the consultation in as open and transparent manner as possible,” he added.
But fellow Brechin councillor, SNP representative Kenny Braes criticised the way it had been handled.
“The parents did their homework, read the proposal and understood it didn’t stack up in terms of legislation,” he said.
“The coalition of chaos should have understood that long before now and it would have saved everyone a whole lot of grief.”