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Activists hit out at new plan to axe school

THE spirit of new legislation designed to protect village schools from closure has been broken by a Scottish council, campaigners have warned.

Parents said Fife Council was "running roughshod" over laws intended to stop local authorities making repeated attempts to shut schools.

The attack followed moves by the council to close Crombie Primary School, near Dunfermline, as part of a wider rationalisation of the school estate, which would see six primaries shut.

The council decided in ­February that the existing proposal for Crombie - which has 15 pupils - was unsuitable, but moved ­immediately to a new closure consultation under a different set of proposals.

The Scottish Rural Schools Network (SRSN) argues that the ­decision flies in the face of ­Scottish Government legislation - also passed in February but not yet in effect - which was supposed to prevent repeated closure attempts.

Under the terms of the ­legislation councils are supposed to give schools a five year period of grace before coming back with fresh proposals.

Sandy Longmuir, chairman of the SRSN, accepted Fife Council was not bound by the law, but argued councillors were fully aware of the intention of the legislation and should have given Crombie a reprieve.

He said: "It is clear the ­intentions of this legislation are meaningless when it comes to the actions of councils.

"The attitude of Fife Council towards a successful school which is not a financial burden and which is doing well for its pupils has been appalling.

"The fact they have ignored the recommendations on revisiting closure proposals so blatantly says a lot about their attitude to the legislative intent of the ­Scottish Parliament."

Tony Orton, chairman of ­Crombie Residents Association, also hit out at the council's decision.

He said: "The council is treating the views of the pupils, parents, families and residents of the Crombie community with contempt.

"We are also finding it extremely difficult to obtain the answers to requests for the ­financial and legal information necessary for us to challenge the closure."

However, Fife Council stressed the new legislation was not yet in force and said the proposals had been altered as a result of the public consultation.

Shelagh McLean, education directorate resources manager, said: "The initial proposal for Crombie was to rezone the catchment to Cairneyhill Primary given the relative proximity of the schools.

"However, it was made clear during the consultation that parents, staff and the local community favoured a rezoning to Limekilns.

"In light of this, the executive committee agreed the initial proposal should not be progressed further, but did give approval to proceed with a new consultation."

The most recent inspection report for the school highlighted its balanced curriculum with a "wide range of stimulating learning opportunities".

Pupils were described as "polite and courteous" while both the leadership of the ­headteacher and attainment in mathematics were praised by inspectors.

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