Page last updated at 18:48 GMT, Tuesday, 23 March 2010

School closures in North Lanarkshire get go-ahead

Parents outside council headquarters in Motherwell
Parents gathered at council headquarters ahead of the meeting

Plans to close four primary schools in North Lanarkshire have been given the green light by the council's learning and leisure committee.

It follows a lively meeting attended by dozens of parents opposed to the closures.

The local authority said the move, which has now to be approved by the full council, would enhance educational opportunities.

But parents slammed the decision and criticised the consultation process.

North Lanarkshire Council announced last November that it was considering closing Belvidere Primary in Bellshill, Gartsherrie in Coatbridge, St Francis of Assisi, Cumbernauld, and St Matthew's, Wishaw.

The council said that between them the four schools have more than 500 surplus spaces and the buildings would need extensive refurbishment in order to be fit for the 21st century.

The need to make efficiency savings across the local authority's overall budget was also cited as a key factor in the proposed closures, with the money saved estimated at about £800,000.

We will now pursue legal action
Kay Rowatt
Parent, Gartsherrie Primary

Following the meeting committee convenor Councillor Jim Logue said: "The decision to close a school is never taken lightly.

"However, we have 8,500 surplus primary places in North Lanarkshire, equivalent to 40 average-sized schools."

He added: "We understand that parents will be disappointed by this decision and the uncertainty it brings.

"However, we are confident their children's education will be enhanced because they will attend larger schools which can offer a wider range of educational opportunities."

Parents who attended the meeting said their fight to keep the schools open would continue.

Court challenge

Kay Rowatt, from the action group opposed to the closure of Gartsherrie Primary school in Coatbridge said: "We will now pursue legal action.

"We have engaged a lawyer and after the vote on Thursday he will take our case to the Court of Session and challenge the closure plan with a judicial review."

Karen Eadie, chairwoman of a committee set up to fight the closure of St Francis of Assisi Primary in Cumbernauld, said: "The whole process from start to finish has been a complete sham.

"Our consultation states that there are superior facilities at the two receiving schools but the report clearly shows that is not the case.

"We are now expected to accept that our kids will be sent to schools that don't have the proper facilities."

St Matthew's parents
Parents have staged protests and marches against the closures

There were lively scenes during the committee meeting as members made their views on the closures known.

Independent councillor Gordon Murray, who represents Cumbernauld North, slammed the decision to close St Francis of Assisi school.

He described the closure plan as "the stupidest proposal of all" and claimed the consultation process was a "farce".

His comments were greeted by applause from parents in the public gallery.

The head of the SNP group, Councillor Richard Lyle, was also applauded when he said the party would oppose the plans.

Council leader, Labour councillor Jim McCabe, who sits on the learning and leisure committee, said the local authority was in the same situation as every other council in Scotland and had to make budget cuts.

He also warned there could be more school closures ahead.

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