Schools face a roll merger

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Controversial plans to close a Deeside and Donside primary school and merge them with two nearby facilities were hotly debated by members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Marr Area Committee this week.

The Committee was not being asked to decide on the issue but their views will now go before a meeting in April of the Council’s Education and Learning Committee, before being decided upon by the Policy and Resources Committee.

The final say will rest with Scottish Government Ministers, who will have power to halt, or approve the merger process. The proposals came before a meeting at Huntly and followed public meetings on the issue, attended by parents whose children will be involved.

The views of the pupils were also sought, during the consultation process.

The plans are for Logie Coldstone School on Deeside to close, on July 2 this year, with the pupils starting the new term, on August 18 , at Tarland Primary School, about 4 miles away. A report before Tuesday’s meeting said that the roll at Logie Coldstone had fallen to just 8 pupils, a situation that could prove a serious disadvantage for the pupils concerned. Tarland has about 80 pupils.

A Government inspectors’ report said that none of the parents of children at Logie Coldstone were in favour of closing the school and did not accept the argument that education in a larger school would be better for their children.

A separate report said that the roll at Clatt Primary School, Donside, had also dropped to 8 pupils and the Education Department was recommending that their school should be closed, with the children continuing their education at Kennethmont Primary, about three miles away.

At the time of the report, there were 29 pupils at Kennethmont.

Although officials have stressed that cost is not the sole reason for the two proposed mergers, they say in their reports on the issue that the amalgamation of Logie Coldstone and Tarland will lead to a full-year saving of £82,663 and the Clatt-Kennethmont merger will lead to a full-year cost saving of £123,785.

However, the reports said that the Education Authority’s main concern is about “the lack of opportunity available to pupils, in schools with extremely small rolls.”

At Tuesday’s meeting, Councillor Jill Webster said that the most important issue was the education of the children concerned and she asked Interim Director of Education, Jim Anderson, what the Council would be doing until the issue was finalised.

He said that the education authority would be working with the parents, to plan ahead, in the event of the mergers going through. But he said that the positions of staff would be much more difficult, as they could not be transferred from one school to another, before any decision was taken.