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D&G school closure proposals put on hold

Garlieston Primary School Photo: ITV Border

Proposals to close three rural primary schools in Dumfries and Galloway have been paused, following significant opposition.

A consultation on plans to shut Ae, Garlieston and Kirkbean primary schools ended last week, where strong objections were made from residents, parents and local politicians.

The schools have fewer than 40 pupils between them.

Dumfries and Galloway Council said that in light of "wide-ranging" representations, it would take extra time to consider the views received.

Garlieston Primary School Credit: ITV Border

A Dumfries and Galloway Council spokesperson said:

The formal process to consider the future of three of our rural schools has reached the end of the first stage in the process and received wide ranging representations from parents, community and politicians. It's important that the Council has the time to listen and consider these fully before determining future stages.

"At this time the Council has decided to ask officers to pause the process and take extra time to consider the representations rather than progressing with the next phase of consultation.

"Education Scotland has been informed of this decision. A paper outlining all of these considerations in detail will be presented to the Children, Young People and Lifelong Learning Committee in November. This very much aligns with the new revised Council Plan on engaging with communities to deliver collaborative solutions."

– Dumfries and Galloway Council spokesperson

South Scotland MSP, Colin Smyth, has praised the response from local communities in the areas around the three schools:

The process has seen a fantastic response from local communities in each area who have displayed the passion they have for their local schools. When a school roll falls significantly then sadly shutting a school is sometimes the only option but that isn’t the case with these schools where numbers are on the rise and parents strongly oppose closure. In my submission to the consultation I made the point that school rolls would actually be higher in each school but some parents had understandably chosen to send their kids elsewhere because they were worried the school would close. The council should therefore now completely remove the possibility of closure which has dangling over these schools and that will give more parents the confidence to send their kids to their local school”.

“I would also urge parents and local communities to keep involved. I spoke to a number of residents during the process who admitted that the consultation meetings had been the first time they had been in the local school for years. The schools need to capture the enthusiasm they have seen from the community during this process and use it to get more people involved in the school.”

“Whilst its right not to close these schools, the public know that the council will now have to add the savings they would have made from closure to the list of cuts they have to find elsewhere. More and more people are waking up to the fact that councils across Scotland are having to make these types of tough decisions because Governments at UK and Scottish level are imposing massive cuts on local services. The public need to start to show the same level of fight against austerity as they rightly did to save schools and start to send a clear message to Government- no more cuts”

– South Scotland MSP Colin Smyth

Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell has welcomed the decision:

A pause in this process is to be very much welcomed.

"Like Conservative councillors I have been opposed to this ridiculous fools errand from the start.

"Once again it shows how out of touch some councillors on Dumfries and Galloway Council are with local opinion.

"Rather than try and backtrack and save face, the council should just take these proposals off the table altogether and let our teachers get back to doing what they do best; serving our rural communities."

– Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell

I'm absolutely delighted, although this is described as a pause it's really an indefinite pause, it will go to a committee of councillors who I am very confident will throw it out, because I think this was driven by officials, and when the councillors saw the strength of the submissions from the communities, and from stakeholders like myself and the Scottish Rural Schools network, they realised that they were on a hiding to nothing with this, they really couldn't justify closing these schools.

– Joan McAlpine, South Scotland MSP (SNP)