Parents have accused a local authority of closing their only local secondary school "by stealth" at the risk of turning their rural community into a "retirement village".

Dumfries and Galloway Council gave parents just days notice at the end of last term that the future of the S4 year group at Dalry Secondary School was in question.

Pupils were recommended to transfer to Castle Douglas High School - 16 miles away - for fourth year due to a drop in roll numbers and a resulting "very limited curricular pathway".

The council has since said that it will provide lessons for the three remaining young people should they choose to stay at Dalry but it will be unable to provide the full Curriculum for Excellence.

Parents claim a lack of political will to protect Dalry from cuts has been ongoing for years and is a tactical choice to discourage pupils from enrolling at the school.

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They fear the school will eventually be mothballed, causing damage to the wider community by having no local secondary school facilities to draw new families to the area.

Mother-of-two Sarah Ade said parents were only contacted about the potential axe of S4 just two days before the end of last term, leaving them with a summer of uncertainty.

Ms Ade, from the school's parent council, said: "This is an issue that has been ongoing for the last few years and has now culminated in the senior management committee essentially saying they can't run S4 at the school because there's not enough children.

"But they have been steadily reducing the offering the for the children at Dalry anyway."

The Herald:

The issue comes after The Herald reported earlier this year that some 40 rural primary schools have been mothballed or closed in the last five years with 15 more at risk.

First Minister Humza Yousaf was urged not to leave rural families “high and dry” in a situation illustrated by the ongoing issues in the Glenkens area.

Dalry used to be an all-through school but in 2016, due to what the local authority characterised as recruitment difficulties, the school was modified to be S1 to S4 only.

Young people looking to continue their education then moved to Castle Douglas High School, which can be an hour or more journey from parts of the Glenkens.

Dalry no longer has a dedicated head teacher but is managed remotely by the head teacher of Castle Douglas, who parents claim rarely visits the school.

Parents say subject choices were limited, meaning young people with specific ambitions - such as requirements for certain university courses - had to move schools to access what they needed.

This year's S4 cohort should have had nine pupils but six decided to move elsewhere, leaving just three in the year group.

Ms Ade said: "The head teacher said this meant that they would have to change the offering for the pupils that were left because they couldn't run a class for less than three pupils.

"As a parent council we're actively trying to figure out why but we get very little clarity from the teaching management committee at all."

A spokesperson for the council said: "It is not the case that there will be no S4 to enter, as provision will be made."

But parents said S4 pupils have been told there will not be teaching time for them but they will instead sit in on S3 classes and work alone.

Ms Ade said: "They can't close a rural school. It's of course not allowed. So the only way you can do it is through parental choice.

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"They're making sure parental choice means that people leave and we know this because also we've had feedback from staff members, from former staff and from informal conversations, we know that they are they want to close Dalry.

"Dalry is just an annoyance to the Castle Douglas senior management team who now have to look after it."

The parent council said there is a lack of transparency between the school management team and parents.

This is, they say, an additional frustration because the parent council is proactively trying to find long term solutions to safeguard their school's future.

The community has access to windfarm funding, and renewable energy firms that have offered to run courses to help pupils gain qualifications locally.

Dumfries and Galloway Council is consulting on the future of the ageing education estate and parents want to see a new-build all-through Dalry school that could be "future-proofed" by having adaptable space for use by the wider community.

The Herald:

Ms Ade said: "We want our school in our community. This a much broader issue than just the parents of pupils at school right now. This is a rural community in Scotland.

"Our schools are a lifeline. Without having the school there we will lose families, will lose people coming back to work in the area, we'll lose our workforce.

"Young people being sent to Castle Douglas detaches them from their area and they are less likely to return post-education.

"Whole families are moving out of this area, so it will end up that our communities are more of a retirement village than alive, lively, healthy communities."

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Father Jan Burrows was keen for his daughter to stay at Dalry school but the subject changes saw him forced to move her to Castle Douglas.

The family is now struggling with transport to reach the further away high school.

Mr Burrows said: "We are new to the area and we really wanted to support the local school se were determined to keep her there for S4 but very late on three students dropped out so the school called and said the subjects - which I had negotiated hard for her to access - would no longer be on offer.

"My daughter wants to do Highers and go on to further education and she was not going to have that opportunity at Dalry so we took the difficult decision to move her."

Mr Burrows is now in the middle of a formal complaints process against the council as it will not provide transport for his daughter to Castle Douglas.

He said: "It is their fault that I have had to move her and now she'll have to travel 20 miles every day because her catchment school cannot provide her with the education she needs.

"At Dalry there were small class sizes and I do worry that her educational outcomes will not be as good at Castle Douglas as there are larger class sizes and less one-to-one support."

Ms Ade's son is starting primary six after the school holidays while her daughter moves into S3.

The family will now face difficult decisions as the teenager hopes to become a vet but will not have access to sciences at Dalry.

Ms Ade claims the whole S3 year group is at risk because of the limited subjects on offer and they could also move, making Dalry S1 and S2 only.

Ms Ade said: "Children are having to limit their educational outcomes if they want to stay within their local community to learn.

"They are not being listened to. The council is certainly not Getting It Right For Every Child, not in our authority."

She added: "Our teachers are supportive but we are at risk of losing our teachers because who wants to be in a school if you're not having the opportunity to teach your subject to exam level?"

A spokesperson for Dumfries and Galloway Council said the council had written to the parents of the nine then-S3 pupils in November 2022 over the limited subject choices.

He said: "The school staff, led by James Smith as head teacher, have worked hard with young people to ensure their senior phase programme meets their entitlements and reflects their post-school ambitions."

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Alastair Lamb, chairman of the Dalry Schools Parent Council, said: "The parent council is keen to support the management team in providing the education our children are entitled to at our catchment school.

"But this needs management and leaders to step up and take an active interest and see the benefits of remote rural education in Dalry Secondary an area with growing opportunities in renewable energies and forestry, rather than treating it is a problem."

Ms Ade added: "We want to be very proactive and we want to say this is important to us. Our community needs our school.

"So we want to offer them something - such as our idea for a new build campus - and see if we can get the best for the community.

"It won't help the pupils right now but it is vital for our future."