The threat of closure hanging over Perthshire schools is causing them to “haemorrhage pupils”, worried parents have said.
A public meeting was held last night to discuss fears about Perth and Kinross Council’s school estate review, which focuses on ageing buildings and those running at less than 60% capacity.
At the Royal George Hotel in Perth, parents of Pitlochry High School and Logierait and Grandtully primary schools said the number of pupils at the schools is dropping dramatically because parents fear they will close.
A number of options are being considered for the schools, as well as Cleish and Ruthvenfield, in the second phase of the region-wide review. As well as closure, the council is considering changing catchment areas and investing in the buildings.
But Andy Charlton, chairman of Pitlochry High School’s parent council, said the school roll has dropped by almost 20 per cent since the review was announced.
“One of the options presented is closure and that would have a devastating impact on the entire area, the school and the local economy,” he said.
“Families won’t want to move into the area if there is only provision for primary school education and already we are seeing that. Since the review was announced the occupancy [at Pitlochry] has nosedived. We are haemorrhaging pupils and we are trying to stem that.”
Pitlochry only offers education until S4. After that, pupils travel to Aberfeldy and Breadalbane and Mr Charlton said parents are now choosing to pull their younger children from the school when their older siblings transition.
The concerns were echoed by Carrie Kemp, a member of the parent council at Logierait.
“We feel that our school is very vulnerable,” she said.
“We have been contacted by parents who are considering coming and putting our children in the school and as soon as they find about the review they change their minds. You can see why.”
The first phase of the review, which started in November 2016, has already seen five schools proposed for closure, with the future of more than 20 to be considered overall.
Leading councillors say the process will allow them to ensure schools are fit for purpose and investment is carried out where needed.
Lifelong learning convener Caroline Shiers said: “I have attended all of the public sessions in the first phase and met hundreds of parents and community members throughout the process.
“We will continue to engage with parents and the wider public as the review continues and welcome the opportunities to discuss how we can work together to deliver the very best education we can for all our children and young people.”
But Anna Brocklehurst, chairwoman of Grandtully Primary School parent council, criticised the council’s handling of the review, saying she and fellow parents have been left to publicise meetings.
“We have been trying to spread the word and drum up awareness because we want as many people as possible to attend and fight the possibility of closure but that should not be our responsibility,” she said.
“We are told this is not a war and it’s not us against them but if that is true why are we having to defend our school like this? There has been a lack of engagement and it shouldn’t be the responsibility of parents to tell the community about these meetings.”
Last night’s meeting was organised by Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart who vowed to help protect the schools from closure.
He said: “I was bitterly disappointed that we lost five schools in the first tranche but we will not allow that to happen again.
“We will make sure parents are better equipped and have the information and arguments we need to protect these schools.
“I am appalled at what we have seen in my constituency.”