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Parents fight bid to close village's school

PARENTS fighting to save their village school have accused council officials of ignoring a national moratorium on primary closures in rural areas.

PROTEST: Parents and pupils outside Baldernock Primary, in Balmore, near Torrance, which is threatened with closure. Picture: Colin Templeton
PROTEST: Parents and pupils outside Baldernock Primary, in Balmore, near Torrance, which is threatened with closure. Picture: Colin Templeton

Under proposals from East Dunbartonshire Council, Baldernock Primary, in Torrance, on the outskirts of Glasgow, could be shut and merged with another school.

However, because the primary is a rural school, parents argue it is covered by a blanket ban on closures agreed by the Scottish Government and Cosla, the council umbrella body, last year.

The formal moratorium ended in the summer, but there was an understanding it would continue until after the publication of a report by the Commission on the Delivery of Rural Education.

Jan Mackay, joint chair of Baldernock's parent council, said: "No rural school should be closed until the findings of the Scottish Government's commission are published. There is still no date for this and yet the council is pressing ahead with a consultation that could shut this school.

"The school lies at the heart of this community and, if the school goes, the community will be fractured for ever. You will never get that back because people with young families will not move to the area."

The call to delay a decision was backed by Sandy Longmuir, chairman of the Scottish Rural Schools Network.

He said: "Although the more formal moratorium is no longer active there is still an expectation that no rural primaries should be closed until the commission reports.

"It is very presumptuous to go ahead with the consultation in the absence of their findings because it is not clear what further guidance or legislation may follow that report.

"You have to wonder why the council seems so keen to start this process when waiting a few weeks would give it a much greater understanding of what the future holds."

Anne McNair, SNP councillor for Bishopbriggs North and Torrance, also attacked the move. She said: "We are calling for the council to take a step back and asking why there is such haste in taking these decision.

"The council's previous review of the primary estate in 2010 was wrong and this is the council's second attempt. It is not taking time to listen to the parents' view before proceeding."

However, Rhondda Geekie, the council leader, said the findings of the commission would be taken into account.

She said: "The Scottish Government is currently undertaking a review of procedures in relation to rural school closures and it is expected that the Commission on the Delivery of Rural Education will publish its findings in early 2013.

"The outcome of any changes to the procedure will be applied to rural schools in East Dunbartonshire, should they be included in future plans for the review of the primary school estate. We would take that into consideration before going to formal consultation."

The plans for Baldernock are part of a wider bid by the council to refurbish its primary school estate and tackle falling rolls and ageing buildings.

Amid opposition to the plans, councillors agreed to a public consultation from January 7 to February 4 before decisions are made in March on which schools should close or merge.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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