Campaigners fighting the proposed closure of Stracathro Primary School are continuing to pile on the pressure, claiming a suitability survey carried out by Angus Council was “invalid” and should be rendered “null and void.”
Parents are holding their ground over the local authority’s proposal to close the rural school under the first stage of a new and far-reaching 30-year schools for the future strategy unveiled by the council at the beginning of the year.
Under a Brechin cluster plan, Lethnot, Tarfside and Stracathro schools would close, with youngsters attending an expanded Edzell primary in an amended school catchment.
The consultation process had been marred with controversy, including a lack of a public meeting which the council has since arranged.
In a letter sent to members of the council’s children and learning committee following a response to a Freedom Of Information request, Lee Ann Waddell, vice-chairman of the school’s parent council, highlighted concerns about the manner in which the suitability survey was conducted at Stracathro Primary School.
She claimed, against government recommendations, the head teacher did not personally complete the survey but was “merely consulted” on her opinion while visiting council officers filled in the pro forma questionnaire.
“Despite the guidance clearly stating the school should not be ranked against neighbouring schools, I am led to believe the two visiting council officers led the survey with their knowledge on how aspects of the building and grounds compared to other schools.”
She questioned a property advisor’s role in the survey and the fact no handwritten notes were taken at the time.
“The absence of any handwritten notes – or indeed any supporting paperwork whatsoever used to justify the scores given in the Stracathro School suitability survey – means there is no auditable trail regarding the completion of the survey.
“I have asked for clarification as to whether the ‘handwritten notes combined to form the single Angus Council supplementary suitability survey’ have in fact been destroyed.
“With no auditable record regarding the compilation of the survey, and subsequent evidence it was not completed by the relevant parties in the manner laid out in the government guidelines, there can be no choice but to render the suitability survey for Stracathro Primary School null and void.”
A council spokesperson said: “A suitability assessment was carried out in all Angus schools during December 2016 to February 2017, with the exception of schools which were either newly-opened or in the process of being replaced.
“The staff involved in carrying out the survey with the head teacher included an education professional who could provide an independent view of the suitability of the school, and an officer with a property background who could support the education professionals in terms of building knowledge.
“The scores for the school suitability surveys were agreed by the Head Teacher and the other officers at the time of completing the surveys.
“Each school was assessed on its individual merits. All comments recorded on the handwritten forms were on the supplementary suitability survey and these were all typed into a single supplementary survey for each school.
“The suitability score included in the consultation document is from the Scottish Government questionnaire. The guidance requires comments to be added to the document if there are any ratings of D.
“As there were no D ratings in Stracathro, there are no comments in the document.
“The information from the supplementary suitability survey “Educational Aspirations for the Future” was based on the standards agreed in our Schools Investment Strategy. This strategy outlined our aspirations for our school estate over the next thirty years.”