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by Jenni Davidson
02 September 2016
Scottish Borders Council denies schools consultation will lead to closures

Scottish Borders Council denies schools consultation will lead to closures

Scottish Border Council headquarters - Image credit: Scottish Borders Council

Scottish Borders Council’s has denied that a consultation on smaller schools in the region means it is considering closing schools.

Conservative MSP John Lamont had suggested the consultation may be “an excuse for closures”.

Commenting on the Borders schools consultation earlier this week, the MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire said: “While it is right that Scottish Borders Council looks at whether the current school provision in the Borders is fit for purpose, parents will be rightly concerned that this review may be an excuse for school closures.

“The council must focus on the needs and wishes of local communities and any consultation must put these views at the forefront. 

“The loss of a local school is a big blow for any rural community, as well as a huge disruption for pupils.

“Schools in rural areas can be the lifeblood of villages and communities, providing an opportunity for children to learn near to where they live but also providing a focal point for rural life.”


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Lamont blamed the Scottish Government for budget cuts, saying: “The reality is that Scottish Borders Council is being forced to look closely at whether it can keep smaller schools open because its budget keeps getting cut by the SNP Government.

 

“These cuts have already meant we’ve lost over 60 primary school teachers and now it seems schools closures are being considered.”

However, Councillor Sandy Aitchison, Scottish Borders Council executive member for education, denied closures were on the agenda.

He said: “Mr Lamont’s statement misrepresents what we have stated we are setting out to do as part of the school estate review.

“The paper going to the Executive Committee next Tuesday is explicit in that we are proposing to engage with the school communities with pupil rolls of less than 50 to develop sustainability plans.

“We are doing are very best to support our rural communities and finding ways to sustain our smaller rural schools is a vital part of that.”

Four hundred people took part in engagement events and over 800 parents and pupils responded to a pre-consultation on Scottish Borders Council school estates review.

Aitchison described the pre-consultation feedback as a “warts and all assessment” of the schools.

A summary of the pre-consultation and review responses will be presented to councillors on Tuesday and the results used to inform formal proposals to be put to statutory consultation.

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