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New wave of school closures

Councils are facing a renewed backlash from parents over school closure plans. Stirling and East Ayrshire are the two latest education authorities to come under fire following announcements by Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Highland councils.

East Ayrshire's education committee was expected to give its approval yesterday (Thursday) to talks on the future of five primary schools and one secondary school, which if axed could save Pounds 100,000 this year.

The schools under threat are St Conval's High in Cumnock, Grougar primary in Moscow, Crookedholm primary, St Clare's primary in Sinclairston, St Paul's primary in Hurlford and St Thomas' primary in Muirkirk.

The council believes rationalisation will improve educational provision in the area and cut maintenance costs. However the timing of the announcement, during the Easter holidays, has been criticised by Kim Nicoll, an SNP councillor, as an attempt to dampen opposition.

"I think it is appalling the way people have been treated. I have had parents and teachers on the phone in tears. Some were on holiday when the announcement was made," Ms Nicoll said.

St Paul's and Crookedholm have comparatively high occupancy rates of 66 per cent and 71 per cent respectively.

Tommy Farrell, the council's education convener, insists he is open to persuasion. "I am very anxious to ensure that everyone who has an interest should make their views known to the council," Mr Farrell said.

Parents and the school board at St Paul's have already launched a protest petition. Under the council's proposals, pupils would be transferred to St Matthew's primary in Kilmarnock.

Stirling's children's committee, meanwhile, is recommending two primary schools for closure amid strong opposition from parents. Three public meetings have been arranged.

Arnprior primary, with only 12 pupils (20 per cent of its capacity), is expected to close at the end of June, with first-year savings of Pounds 22,500. Pupils will transfer to Bychlyvie primary.

Croftamie primary has eight pupils (out of a capacity of 50) and it is proposed to transfer them to Drymen primary this June or next. The council expects to save between Pounds 59,000-Pounds 63,000, depending on the closure date.

Proposals by Highland Council to shut seven primaries and an accommodation hostel (TESS, April 5) have also led to protests. At 13-pupil Scotsburn primary near Invergordon parents have pledged to fight "all the way".

The council claims it will save Pounds 26,100 a year by transferring pupils to Craighill, Knockbreck or Milton primary schools, four miles away.

Highland has already shown it can be a listening council. When rationalisation was first discussed by the education committee, strong opposition by the local community to closing Fort William primary won a year's reprieve.

Overall, Highland hopes to save Pounds 232,000 in the first year and has pledged to use half of any capital receipts to improve provision in neighbouring schools.

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