26 May 2005

S2M-2770 Rural and Special Needs Schools (Aberdeenshire)

Scottish Parliament

Thursday 26 May 2005

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 09:15]

… … …

Rural and Special Needs Schools (Aberdeenshire)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Trish Godman): The final item of business today is a members' business debate on motion S2M-2770, in the name of Richard Lochhead, on the proposed closure of rural and special needs schools in Aberdeenshire. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament notes with concern the proposals by Aberdeenshire Council to close or amalgamate a number of local schools; recognises the strength of feeling amongst parents and the wider community over the implications of closing those schools, as illustrated by the formation of the Garioch Schools Action Group and other local campaigns; notes in particular the proposal to close St Andrew's school in Inverurie, a school that is widely recognised as providing an excellent educational environment for children with special needs; recognises the opposition to the current proposals by local parents at St Andrew's who are genuinely concerned by the impact some of the options proposed by Aberdeenshire Council will have on their children; notes the ongoing confusion over the exact nature of the local authority's proposals which is causing considerable distress amongst parents; believes that Aberdeenshire Council must make available to parents all the necessary information in relation to all those schools proposed for closure as part of the current consultation process; considers that Aberdeenshire Council should recognise the strength of the arguments put forward by parents and the wider community for the retention of their local schools, and further considers that the Scottish Executive should play what role it can to ensure that Aberdeenshire Council's proposals do not damage the educational welfare of the children and wider interests of the community.


… … …


Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I recall the briefing to which Mr Rumbles referred. It may come as a surprise to him but, given the inability of Richard Lochhead to attend, I ensured that what happened and what was said at the meeting was shared with my colleagues.

Mike Rumbles: So that is what went on.

Stewart Stevenson: That is as members would expect. I suggest to Mike Rumbles that we do not make this a party-political issue-

Mike Rumbles: Oh dear.

Stewart Stevenson:—unless he wishes it to be one.

The core of what matters is the parents and the children who are affected by the plans. They are, in large part, affected beneficially. In some areas, however, that is less clearly the case. In that spirit, I welcome in particular the St Andrew's School parents, who have joined us in the public gallery to watch the debate. Because the time of the debate was brought forward, they were not able to be here for it all. I hope that, now that we will finish somewhat earlier than planned and the minister has some spare time, he might be able, as a courtesy to the parents who have travelled down here to see us, to spare them a few minutes after the debate, so that we can actually engage ministers and parents. Parents at St Andrew's and other schools who want to influence the outcome of Aberdeenshire's options and plans have conducted their campaigns in an excellent, professional and reasoned way throughout the shire.

There are people in my constituency who, like people in Inverurie, will be dancing in the streets tonight following some of today's proposed changes by the education committee of Aberdeenshire Council. A number of closures are proposed for my constituency. They are, by and large, sensible and respond to the demographic changes that have taken place. In one case, the council is closing a school that had an open roofless toilet for its children, which is absolutely unsustainable in the modern world. Such responses to changing circumstances are entirely appropriate.

In the brief time that is available to me, I want to say a few words about Longhaven School, south of Peterhead, where the case for closure is not as strong by any means. In fact, its closure was considered among the options only because of a slightly loose remark, or rather a question, by a local councillor—no names, no pack drill; this is not the time for that. That councillor asked why Longhaven was not one of the schools that were being considered for closure. It did not come under the initial considerations, although it ended up being recommended for closure.

That decision is a great mystery to parents and to me. The grounds for the school's closure relate to the state of the building, yet there is no evidence that it is inappropriate. It has had money spent on it in recent years, and I have visited it a number of times. Not only that, but the council has given a near six-figure sum to redevelop the village hall, which is located just a few feet from the school. Facilities are shared by the two buildings, and those improvements were required for the school. I hope that, when the full council considers the issues around Longhaven School, it is able to reconsider the case that parents have advanced and to examine more carefully whatever proposal the parents end up wanting to include among the options.

Dialogue has been mentioned in the debate. The issue of Longhaven School was voted on without any of the proponents of including the option of closure even speaking for their proposal. We need dialogue on Longhaven School. I welcome the fact that, elsewhere in Aberdeenshire, there is delight at the changes that are being made. I congratulate Richard Lochhead on bringing us the opportunity to consider—I hope objectively—this important issue.


Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

However Google who publish for us, may do.
fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP