A final decision on controversial proposals to remove Invergowrie Primary School from the Harris Academy catchment area has been delayed.
Dundee City Council’s children and family services committee had been due to make a final decision on the realignment of the catchment areas this month.
However, continuing work connected with the proposal to remove Invergowrie’s status as an associated primary of Harris is delaying a report on the school estate issue.
This means that the report will not be available for the committee meeting on Monday, as had been expected.
Under the proposals, Invergowrie pupils will not be automatically eligible for a place at Harris Academy and could have to travel to Perth Academy instead.
This would involve a round trip which would take close to an hour. The journey between Invergowrie and Harris is just over five minutes by car.
If the proposals are approved, the changes will be implemented from August 2022 – a year later than the date originally proposed.
Consultation was carried out last year to seek people’s views about a suggested realignment of the catchment areas of Harris Academy’s feeder schools.
The results of public consultation were published by DCC in December and it was recommended that the proposals be approved.
This was despite overwhelming opposition from both the Dundee and Perth and Kinross communities.
A total of 55 written representations were received – nine from parents, carers, young people and residents from Dundee and 42 from the Perth and Kinross community.
Four additional submissions were also received from the Harris Academy parent council, the executive director of education and children’s services at Perth and Kinross Council, Invergowrie parent council and the Western Gateway Community.
Of the 55 submissions, just one was in favour of the proposal. A further 52 were against the plans and two were neutral.
The majority of responses submitted raised concerns around the additional length of time young people would spend travelling to and from Perth High School during the school day.
“Important that options are fully explored”
Explaining the reason for the decision delay, Councillor Stewart Hunter said that all options are being fully explored before a final report is brought before councillors.
Mr Hunter, convener of the city council’s children and families service committee, said: “We are now continuing discussions with some of our partners to consider next steps and in order to allow time for this it has been decided not to bring the report to the committee at the next meeting on March 8.
“We feel that it is important that options are fully explored and I would like to thank everyone for their ongoing patience.
“I hope that the committee can consider a recommendation as soon as is possible.”
“Prolongs the agony for everyone”
Councillor Angus Forbes, who has been a vocal opponent of the realignment plans, expressed his disappointment at the delay.
He said: “I am disappointed that this has taken so long and has been further delayed.
“Whilst every delay means that perhaps another year of Invergowrie children will be allowed to go to Harris Academy, it really prolongs the agony for everyone.
“Over the last two years I have fought very hard to persuade Dundee Council to change the plans to accommodate the needs of Invergowrie and my visit to their education committee meeting did leave me with a sense that we may succeed but like everything else, Covid caused further disruption.
Mr Forbes, who represents the Carse of Gowrie Ward on Perth and Kinross Council, said the community would continue to campaign to keep Invergowrie in the catchment area.
He added: “It’s still my intention as it is of the community that we will fight as hard as we can to succeed with this campaign.
“We have the support of the entire village, the wider local community and the parent council and I would remind everyone that Perth and Kinross Council still educate primary children who live in Dundee.”
“Delay is understandable”
Councillor Alasdair Bailey, who also represents the Carse of Gowrie Ward, was not critical of the delay but hoped a resolution could be found that meant Invergowrie pupils could still attend school in Dundee.
He said: “Whilst the continued delay in reaching a decision on this point will mean continued uncertainty for parents, it is good to keep in mind that Dundee City Council previously confirmed that any changes won’t come into effect until the start of the 2022/23 school year, so changes this summer are already ruled out.
“Hopefully this matter can be brought to a sensible conclusion in the coming months and a way can be found for the kids of Invergowrie to keep on attending the Harris just like the kids in Clovis Duveau Drive in Dundee will continue to attend Invergowrie Primary School.
“However, I’m mindful of all the pressures the council will be under in responding to the current Covid crisis so the delay is understandable.”