A proposal to mothball a rural school in southern Scotland has been delayed, The Herald can reveal.

Local families have discovered that the plans for Dalry Secondary School, which were due to be considered by Dumfries and Galloway Council’s education committee in a matter of weeks, have now been removed from the meeting agenda.

However, campaigners say the lack of clarity and communication from the council has now created more confusion and anxiety in the community, and raised further concerns about the fairness and transparency of the processes being followed.

The Herald recently reported that a decision was due to be made on 14 March, despite local campaigners hitting out at the council’s handling of the situation and demanding that the vote be delayed.

In response, Dougie Campbell, a now independent councillor who was originally elected as an SNP candidate, submitted a motion calling for an “immediate moratorium on mothballing” and a new approach which recognises the “impact on the wider socio-economic prosperity of affected communities.”

Mr Campbell argued that “once a school is mothballed it won’t reopen” and insisted that “we need to understand the consequences for our rural communities” before going ahead with such proposals. His motion had been seconded by Cllr Andy McFarlane of the SNP.

Read more: Dalry parents fight to save school from mothballing plans

Due to the impending vote on the future of Dalry Secondary School, Campbell’s motion was accepted on an emergency basis. It was due to be considered at a full council meeting this week and, if passed, could have prevented the council from moving ahead with plans to mothball any schools or other public facilities in the area.

Campaigners from the Glenkens & District Community Action Plan Steering Group (CAPSG) had urged councillors to support the emergency motion. They have previously accused Dumfries and Galloway Council of engaging in an “accelerated mothballing process” intended to “sidestep the need to formally consult on closure".

However, The Herald has learned that the proposal to mothball Dalry Secondary School was removed from the agenda for the 14 March meeting after the emergency motion had been circulated to councillors. As a result, the emergency motion to halt all mothballing across the region may no longer be heard at the upcoming full council session.

The Herald understands that the mothballing plans have been delayed rather than cancelled, and that the proposals are expected to be put forward for the next education committee meeting in May instead.

Dalry Secondary School was previously an all-through school but in 2016 the primary and secondary were separated, with the latter becoming the responsibility of the headteacher at Castle Douglas High School, located 16 miles away. Since then, the school roll has continued to fall and the council now plans to mothball the school, with pupils transferring elsewhere.

Read more: Dalry parents claim council is closing rural school by stealth

Campaigners have complained that the mothballing decision seems to be “one for the education committee alone”, an approach which they described as “outdated” and which “does not recognise or indeed respect the voice of our community in such an important decision.”

However, they now say that they have been left in the dark by the latest turn of events and raised concerns about the processes being followed by the local authority.

Speaking anonymously, one local parent told The Herald that pupils and families were still being pressured to make subject choices on the assumption that Dalry Secondary School will be closed next year: “Pupils had a letter asking them to make their subject choices at Castle Douglas, with pressure being put on through reference to the fact that if they don't choose now, the subjects may fill up.”

They continued: “A number of parents of children at the secondary have refused to complete any subject choices until an official decision on mothballing has been reached, and most have said if Dalry is mothballed that they would choose to home school or send their children to Kirkcudbright rather than Castle Douglas as they don't want to send their child to a school managed by the Dalry and Castle Douglas head teacher.

“Staff and pupils are being given information that assumes the mothballing is a 'done deal'. If this period stretches out, with the dominant assumption being given that mothballing is inevitable, it will lead to loss of faith and staff/teachers/pupils leaving, and parents choosing not to send their children to Dalry Secondary. So the education department gets what it wants in the end that way too."

John Paterson, Chair of the CAPSG, told The Herald: “On a decision which is so important for the current pupils and also for the longer term interest of the wider community we would expect to see evidence that due process is being followed and that any decision is made in a fair and transparent manner taking into account all relevant matters.”

Dumfries and Galloway Council was asked to confirm the circumstances around the two motions, as well as whether the mothballing plans have been withdrawn or simply delayed.

A spokesperson for the council said: "The papers for the March meeting of Education and Learning Committee will be published a week before the meeting, as is standard practice for all our council service committees.

"Our Council’s current mothballing policy only covers primary schools and we will be taking steps to address this by bringing a report to a future committee meeting.

"Our Council has been open and transparent with the school and wider Dalry community over the futureproofing of the education and learning experience to children and young people in the school and catchment area. We have held multiple community meetings and carried out extensive engagement and we look forward to finding a way forward, in due course."