A proposed schools shake-up has prompted a backlash from an MSP who has told Angus Council there is “absolutely nothing ambitious about closing primary schools”.
Angus North and Mearns SNP MSP Mairi Gougeon said the proposed closure of Stracathro was a “huge shock” and “one that raises a number of alarm bells for me”.
Stracathro primary would close under proposals in the Angus Schools for the Future programme which will be discussed by Angus Council on Tuesday.
Elected members will decide on the recommendation to consult on the development of Edzell Primary as the rural school for the Brechin cluster and the closure of Lethnot, Tarfside and Stracathro primaries.
Lethnot PS has already been mothballed and Tarfside PS has no pupils on its roll but Stracathro is running at 72% capacity but per pupil costs are £10,095.
“These closure proposals have been sent out under the banner ‘ambitious improvement programme for Angus schools’ but there is absolutely nothing ambitious about closing primary schools,” said Mrs Gougeon.
“Most primary schools, particularly in a rural setting, are the lifeblood of a community.
“Without the primary school as a focal point the impact on a community can be devastating.
“That said, it is difficult to argue a case for the retention of Lethnot Primary School since there are no current pupils there and as I understand it Tarfside is also now in a similar situation.
“But the proposed closure of Stracathro is huge shock and one that raises a number of alarm bells for me and I will be interested to hear what parents and the wider community feel about this.
“Stracathro has a healthy school roll number, is not in a desperate state of disrepair and there would have to be stringent school transport plan in place to accommodate a wide catchment area for a proposed merger with Edzell.
“Any proposal to close these schools would have to be subject to a robust, open and transparent consultation that strictly follows the guidelines set out by the Schools Consultation Act.
“I would urge anyone with any concerns or comments on this proposal to contact me.”
The 2010 Schools Consultation Act makes special arrangements in regard to rural schools, establishing a procedural presumption against the closure of rural schools.
This requires education authorities to follow a more detailed set of procedures and requirements in formulating a rural school closure proposal and in consulting on and reaching a decision as to whether to implement a rural school closure proposal.
The creation of a single campus in Arbroath to replace both secondary school buildings was among the raft of measures put forward by Angus Council in the report.
Other plans include replacing Monifieth High; a review of all Montrose schools; replacing/upgrading Inverbrothock Primary in Arbroath; and a review of 10 more primaries by 2023.