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Rural schools in new closure row

SCHOOL closures are back on the agenda in Moray and Argyll and Bute but neighbouring Highland has dismissed further closures on principle.

Under outline plans approved last week by the controlling Independent-Labour coalition in Moray, three small primaries and a secondary outpost at Tomintoul face the axe. Final decisions will be taken on December 8.

Meanwhile, Argyll has agreed to re-examine closures following a budget shortfall. Closures were shelved in the run-up to the council elections, at a cost of pound;100,000.

The former SNP council in Moray managed to close one primary and the S3-S4 department at Tomintoul amid heated local opposition. Now the new coalition is to go further.

Edinvillie primary has nine pupils and a capacity of 47, Boharm has 10 and a capacity of 71 while Glenrinnes has five but can cope with 19. The cost of educating pupils is two to three times the council average.

Secondary schooling at Tomintoul will finally end when the sole pupil in S2 transfers to Speyside High at Aberlour in the summer. The budget for the one pupil is pound;105,000. There are no S1 pupils after parents agreed to bus their children to Speyside, a well established reality for senior pupils.

Teachers from Speyside provide visiting support for the boy who sits alongside pupils in an upper primary class.

Moray will also consult parents and teachers on creating a community primary in Lossiemouth out of Hythehill and St Gerardine primaries. St Gerardine is only half full but has larger classrooms that would be "ideally suited" for infants. The council wants to combine the staffs under one head.

Argyll, the council with the largest spare capacity in primaries, will look again at closures, although Campbell Cameron, the SNP education convener, is under pressure from the party nationally to pull back. The Independent council previously tried to close nine schools but only succeeded in axing five.

Andy Anderson, SNP education convener in Highland, last month reiterated his opposition to any closures.

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