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Closure plan goes out for consultation

Dumfries and Galloway's education committee agreed on Tuesday to begin a general consultation on the future of its schools, based on a consultant's report recommending the closure of 40 primaries and the possible closure of two secondaries, writes Neil Munro.

In what would be the most dramatic reorganisation by any education authority in Scotland, the intention is that the remaining schools would then be refurbished or replaced under a pound;70million public-private partnership deal. Councillors, who will come under severe pressure from their constituents, have accepted that "the status quo is not an option".

Tommy Sloan, the Labour chairman of the committee, stressed that there was "no specific plan at the moment" and they wanted to find out what local people thought.

He added: "We appreciate that we need to make some definite decisions in the not too distant future so that everyone knows which direction we are heading in. The whole process is completely transparent and we want everything to be out in the open."

In his report to the committee, Fraser Sanderson, the director of education, made it clear the proposals were those of the consultants and had "no local input other than the providing of information to them".

The consultants' review was prompted by the fall in school rolls expected over the next few years, the need to adapt schools to modern learning conditions and the un-affordable backlog of pound;43 million required to upgrade buildings.

The council now plans a two-tier consultation. The first, lasting from September to December, will be informal and wide-ranging including "roadshows" for school boards and visits to individual schools.

By the end of the year the authority then hopes to be able to crystallise its thinking and begin a second but much more fraught consultation, which is required by legislation, and will spell out closure plans for specific schools.

The future for Dumfries and Galloway: Avisandum,page 26.

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