The closure of a Fife nursery is being done illegally and should be halted immediately, a local councillor has claimed.
Fiona Grant, SNP representative for Glenrothes North, Leslie and Markinch, has called on Fife Council to halt the merging of Leslie Nursery with Leslie Primary School after claiming that a suitable consultation process has not been undertaken by the local authority.
Mrs Grant has called for a full 12-month consultation to be carried out on the plan similar to the process undertaken as part of the council’s school estate review for primary and secondary schools despite moves to bring the two sites together already taking shape.
However, the council insists the process has been carried out legitimately with all necessary consultation work carried out.
Speaking to The Courier, Mrs Grant said: “In their indecent haste to close Leslie Nursery it seems that the Labour administration of Fife Council has not fully clarified the consultation required by law.
“As soon as I realised they intended to treat Leslie less well than other places, I called for the same consultation process that will happen for other schools under threat.
“This process can mean that changes proposed after the summer holidays this year do not actually happen till after the summer holidays next year.
“What has happened so far in Leslie has taken about 12 weeks, not 12 months, and nursery children were scheduled to move this year.
“At the very least, while doubt remains over the consultation process, I have asked for an assurance that no further work promoting the closure will be done.
“I have said all along that Fife Council could choose to treat Leslie the same as other communities. To repeatedly fail to do so is contemptuous beyond belief.”
The Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 sets out the process that must be followed when permanent changes are proposed to any school.
In emails seen by The Courier, officers in the council’s legal team agree that this is the relevant legislation to cover the relocation of Leslie Nursery from a standalone site to one within the primary school.
But the council’s chief legal spokesman insists the Leslie proposal would not apply.
He said: “The position is that there was an exchange of emails between legal services and Councillor Grant.
“Councillor Grant asked if the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 was relevant to the proposed relocation of the nursery class and we confirmed that this was indeed the relevant legislation.
“However, although this legislation is the relevant legislation, the exchange of emails did not then go on to address the question as to whether the terms of the act did or did not apply to this particular proposal.
“The act applies when a nursery class is being relocated but the facts of this particular case are that the nursery class is being moved within the existing school, rather than relocated. There is, therefore, no requirement for the education service to carry out any consultation in addition to that which has already been carried out.”
The council’s head of education Bryan Kirkcaldy stressed that parents had been engaged throughout the merging of Leslie Nursery and the primary school.
He said: “A very full and engaging nine-week consultation was carried out with parents and the local community in Leslie.
“This involved 136 families with children in the school and 76 nursery parents, school and nursery staff, Fife Council and community councillors as well as 165 schoolchildren. It involved drop-in sessions, whole school assemblies, several meetings, presentations and newsletters.
“The consultation ended on April 15, revealing overwhelmingly positive support for the proposals.”