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Parents seek legal aid to halt closure

The increasingly bitter war of words that has accompanied a sit-in and a teach-in at St Paul's primary in Hurlford, East Ayrshire, looks set to intensify this week as parents applied for legal aid to seek a judicial review of the decision to close the school.

The Parents and Friends of St Paul's have been advised that East Ayrshire Council has a case to answer in the Court of Session over the way it has handled the closure procedures. But council leaders reiterate that parents have been misled by those organising the protest and that the Secretary of State is satisfied the closure has been handled properly.

John Mulgrew, the council's director of education, claims that misleading information has encouraged parents to send their children to the illegally occupied school in the belief that a judicial review will back their actions.

The group is said to have used a meeting with Raymond Robertson at which the Education Minister gave an undertaking to look into the case for a judicial review as the basis for claiming that such a review was all but secured.

Mr Mulgrew, however, said that he had been assured by the Scottish Office that the Secretary of State has no reason to look into the case.

Children who continued to attend St Paul's, where they are being taught by retired teachers, are not covered by insurance cover, Mr Mulgrew said.

He added: "I think the Health and Safety Executive would like to know about the issue. The whole thing is building up in terms of the illegality of the situation and there are questions being asked by the relevant authorities. "

A council spokesman said on Wednesday that there are no plans to evict protesters from the school or to prevent children attending lessons there. An interdict on various persons entering the school would take at least three to four weeks to serve, although the situation is under review.

Mr Mulgrew said that since the first day of term a week ago more of the St Paul's pupils had agreed to attend neighbouring St Matthew's and that more would do so when they realised that the legal position was untenable. St Matthew's was a modern building only two miles away. Transport was being provided "and uniquely in Scotland, we put attendants on these buses".

Parents, meanwhile, defied the council's attempt to cut off electric and water supplies by bringing in a generator and pumping water from the football club across the road.

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