MSP calls for government to review school closures

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MSP Joan McAlpine says the closure of Ae and Kirkbean schools will have a ‘devastating impact on the community’.

The SNP MSP - who lodged her submissions against the proposed closures today - also said that the Council was not taking into account the educational benefits of smaller class sizes.

Ms McAlpine was contacted last week by parents from Garlieston and will submit to the consultation on their behalf.

She is encouraging members of the community to submit their own views before the consultation closes tomorrow.

The deadline for submissions is 5pm on Tuesday the 3rd of October. Submissions can be sent to schoolsforthefuture@dumgal.gov.uk

Ms McAlpine has been supporting communities battling to save their schools from closure since she was first contacted by parents.

She said: “The strength of feeling in Ae and Kirkbean in support of their school is palpable, and I have been impressed with how the communities have come together to fight these proposals.”

“Parents are rightly angry that the Council is putting the future of their communities and their children’s education at risk, particularly since there have been so many flaws in the consultation process.”

The campaign against the closures got a welcome boost this week when Sandy Longmuir of Scottish Rural Schools Network stepped in to support the parents.

Mr Longmuir accused the Council of multiple breaches of the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 . In a complaint to the Council he said: “Time after time we have seen financial cases constructed from the desired answer backwards. In this case there is a bias in the errors favouring the closure argument.

“I cannot conceive of any way that documents of this standard will not result in a call in (from Scottish Ministers). Natural justice demands that at the very least.

“So many times in the past Councils have claimed that the proposals are about education and financial considerations are secondary. Even if this were true in this case it is not an excuse for getting it so badly wrong.”

Ms McAlpine said that it was fantastic to have Sandy on board fighting on behalf of the parents.

The MSP said that the proposal documents show the Council’s consultation was no more than a “cut and paste” job, and falls short of the requirements laid down by the 2010 Act.

The Act stipulates a presumption against rural school closures and lays down strict obligations on the part of the Council to prove any closure will bring educational benefits, among other things.

Last week the Education Secretary reiterated this point, after Ms McAlpine raised questions over the proposed closures in Parliament.

Ms McAlpine also said that if the local authority pressed ahead with the closure plans she would also urge Scottish ministers to call the decision in for review.

She said: “Our Scottish Government passed laws with the presumption against rural school closures, because we understand that schools are critical to the health of rural communities, and once the school goes you won’t get it back again, which has a huge impact on the village.

“I will fight these closures every step of the way.”