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Girl fights to save her school

A primary 4 pupil from Moray could become the first child to take action against her local authority under Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Emily Gordon, of Portknockie Primary, has already written to the Prime Minister and Jack McConnell, the First Minister, protesting about the threatened closure of her village school.

Now she is taking legal advice on whether the convention provides grounds for her to prevent the authority from closing her school. Article 12 states that children must be given an opportunity to express views on all matters affecting them.

Catherine Ritchie, a parent and activist in the recently formed Portknockie Action Group, said: "Emily doesn't want to go to a school in another village, away from her community, and so she and her mother are taking legal advice on what action they can take. We have also contacted Kathleen Marshall, the Scottish Commissioner for Children and Young People."

Portknockie, which has a roll of 85, is one of 46 schools under consideration for closure, merger or refurbishment in Morayshire. Parents have reacted angrily to the potential threat to their community, but they have not been the only group to organise. Morayshire admits its plans have met a "vociferous" response.

"The review is in response to an HMIE inspection of the authority a year and a half ago," Alasdair Urquhart, chair of the education services committee, said. "The inspectors' report was critical of our management of resources, that our management of staff and buildings wasn't efficient.

"We currently have schools operating with less than 60 per cent capacity, and projected figures for 2011 suggest more schools will have lower occupancy."

Portknockie's occupancy level is just below 40 per cent.

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