A Fife special school has been formally earmarked for closure following a sharp fall in school rolls in recent years.
Lochgelly North, one of just six special schools in the region, is designed to cater for children between the ages of five and 18 with additional support needs arising from severe and complex disabilities.
However, while the special school population in Fife has increased from 117 in 2006-7 to 143 in 2015-16, the roll at Lochgelly North has inexplicably dropped dramatically in recent years with no pupils attending the school since 2013.
In fact, the school was mothballed in July 2013 and now lies vacant.
With little chance of rolls recovering, councillors on Fife Council’s executive committee have now agreed to launch a statutory consultation to formally close the building later this year, which would mean youngsters with additional support needs would have to be catered for elsewhere.
In a report to the executive committee, Craig Munro, executive director for education and children’s services, confirmed that the school roll had fallen from 30 in 2000 to just three when the building was mothballed in 2013 although the reasons for the decline were not clear.
“The remaining pupils at that time were relocated to Lochgelly High School, and the building was taken over on a temporary basis by Sunflower Nursery between January and October 2014,” he said.
“Where there is no reasonable prospect of a significant change in the circumstances that led to the mothballing of a school the Scottish Government recommends that mothballing should not last longer than three years and that a local authority should move at this point to formal consultation on closure.
“There is no prospect of a significant increase in the number of pupils who might attend Lochgelly North special school, and sufficient capacity exists and will continue to exist in Calaiswood special school to accommodate all such needs in the area.
“It is therefore proposed that Lochgelly North special school should be formally closed.”
Asked by councillors as to the reasons why the rolls had fallen so dramatically in Lochgelly, Shelagh McLean, head of education and children’s services, suggested there had been a “presumption to mainstream schools” in recent years, with children transferring to Lochgelly High’s Department of Special Education.
A detailed consultation proposal is now likely to go before councillors again on October 27.