Axe falls on two local schools

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The axe is set to fall on two local schools after an Aberdeenshire Council committee agreed to support proposals to merge them with nearby schools.

Aberdeenshire Council’s policy and resources committee members agreed to support proposals to merge Clatt Primary School with Kennethmont and Logie Coldstone Primary School with Tarland, after taking account of the outcome of public consultation and the views from Marr area councillors, who discussed the proposals at the end of March.

Under the plans, eight-pupil Clatt will merge with Kennethmont School, just over two-and-a-half miles away, at the beginning of the new term in August this year. Logie Coldstone, which also has eight pupils, will merge with Tarland Primary School, less than four miles away.

Views were sought from parent councils, parents, pupils, staff, other school users, trade unions, community councils, and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education (HMIE) between December 2010 and February this year.

Public meetings were held and consultation with staff was undertaken. According to the council, the proposals take account of a variety of factors, including low pupil numbers, sustainability, and the cost of upkeep of the schools. The council claims the measures could lead to annual savings of just under £124,000.

The plans were recommended for approval by the Education, Learning and Leisure (EL&L) Committee at its meeting on April 20. Presenting the EL&L Committee’s discussions, chairman councillor Richard Stroud said: “It’s never a good time to look at closing a school, but I think we have to consider the education of the children. The pupils of Clatt seem to have done very, very well over the years but we are now facing falling school numbers and we have to ask the question ‘are they getting the best educational start to life?’”

The committee took on board additional recommendations from the EL&L committee that parents of current pupils at Clatt School be allowed to send their children to Rhynie School if desired. This would also be an option open to parents of pupils due to join Clatt over the next two years, and their siblings.

Councillor Paul Johnston’s call to reject the proposals for both schools on the grounds there was ‘no evidence’ the education of pupils was being harmed was not supported, and the committee went on to agree the mergers on the basis they would provide educational benefits for the pupils.

Work on progressing the mergers will not begin for six weeks to allow the Scottish Government to consider whether it wishes to look at the plans in more detail. It was also agreed that the property service should investigate options for commercial or business use of the Logie Coldstone building on a leased basis.