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Willie Johnston reports
"Rural school closures are an emotive issue"
 real 56k

Monday, 18 June, 2001, 19:55 GMT 20:55 UK
Schools threatened by council plan
Lockerbie Academy pupils
Up to 42 primary schools and two secondary schools could close
Up to a third of primary schools in Dumfries and Galloway could close under a radical plan for the future provision of education in the region.

The council is to undertake public consultation on a document which suggests the closure of 42 primary schools and two secondary schools.

The council can expect a rough ride over this new vision presented by independent consultants.

Rural school closures are an emotive issue, which has seen bitter campaigns waged over the years to save those under threat.

No preconceived idea

The independent consultants were brought in by the council to look at the condition of schools and to examine the number of children attending the school and projected rolls.

Within the constraints of available finance, the consultants were then asked to come up with a plan for the future.

Up to 42 primary schools and two secondaries could close and it is suggested that nine new schools be built and others improved.

The proposed spending package is 70m.

The secondaries under threat are Dalry in Galloway and either Dumfries Academy or Maxwelltown High School in Dumfries.

The document is going out to head teachers and school boards for consultation.


The school buildings that we do have are not fit for purpose, in that they are not necessarily appropriate to the demands of learning and teaching as we move through this century

Education Director Fraser Sanderson
Dumfries and Galloway education director Fraser Sanderson said: "There are three key elements driving it. One is the present condition of our school building stock. We have about 30m backlog of repairs and maintenance.

"The second is that we are looking at a significant 10% to 12% fall in our school roll over the next five years or so.

"And the third is that the school buildings that we do have are not fit for purpose, in that they are not necessarily appropriate to the demands of learning and teaching as we move through this century."

Unions will oppose any closures they perceive to be finance driven.

Cost-cutting exercise

Moira McCrossan of teaching union EIS said: "We would want to know that a school was being closed on education grounds; on the basis that the children would have a better education in other circumstances and that those were the reason for closure.

"We would not want to see schools being closed purely as a cost cutting exercise. We would be opposed to that completely."

Education officials said they had no preconceived idea of the final outcome.

But education committee chairman Tommy Sloan said doing nothing was not an option.

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