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School closure motives questioned

1 May 08 14:56 GMT

Parents have accused Angus Council of trying to push through the closure of a local primary before new laws on shutting rural schools are introduced.

The Scottish Government has launched a consultation on a bill which, if made law, would give more protection to schools in country areas.

In Angus, a consultation is currently under way on proposals to axe Eassie Primary and send pupils to Newtyle.

The council claims the school is run down and pupil numbers are falling.

It also believes there is a shortage of PE facilities.

The consultation on the "Safeguarding Rural Schools" bill was launched by Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

She said: "Local schools are an important part of ensuring vibrant local communities and local economies in villages across rural Scotland.

"This government wants to make the process for handling all school closures fairer, more robust and more transparent, and we want to see better consultation before any decision is taken."

The bill proposes that before a school could be shut the local authority would have to study alternatives to closure, provide an educational benefit statement, consult for a minimum of six weeks of term time and extend the list of consultees to include school inspectors.

Bruce Pattullo, whose son attends Eassie, said: "Although they [Angus Council] don't have to abide by anything in this proposal since it is not law yet, I think they should pay heed to it because the proposal from Fiona Hyslop is just common sense and it shows that they're trying to rush it through.

"It could be said that they're trying to rush the closure through before this proposal becomes legislation.

"Eassie Primary is at the heart of the community. It is a very good school educationally and within the past year I've seen enormous benefits for my child."

A spokeswoman for Angus Council said: "The council is undertaking the consultation on the future of Eassie Primary School in light of a drop in the school roll in 2007-08, the lack of provision for PE and the suitability of the school building.

"If we have to close a school it makes sense that this happens at the end of the school session.

"If Eassie is to close we would envisage this happening at the start of the summer holidays."

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