'School closures spark war of words'
is the headline on the Berwickshire News
website (Huttonian has not been able to get the actual paper as is still confined to barracks with the non-flu.) It goes on
"WAR of words has broken out
following Scottish Borders Council's decision last week to close both Hutton and Burnmouth primary schools by June next year.
Scottish Executive approval will now be sought to close both schools - Hutton because of the distance pupils will have to travel to Chirnside school, and Burnmouth because the school's occupancy level is around 80%. Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP, Euan Robson, who is also deputy education minister, will not be involved in the final decision process if the Executive decides it needs to consider the school closures, leaving him free to continue to represent his constituents. Education minister Peter Peacock will make the final decision on whether the council has followed the proper procedure and considered relevant criteria in reaching their decision on the future of the two schools. The decision to close the two schools brings to six the number of primary schools closed by SBC this year. Councillors took the decision to close Hutton school because of the condition of the building, its falling school roll and lack of peer group socialisation. Reasons given for closing Burnmouth were concern whether the building could deliver the modern curriculum, opportunity for socialisation and the need to ensure a fair distribution of resources. Hutton School Action Group claim they are being denied leave to appeal and that the closure will not go to the Scottish Executive. However, both the Executive and SBC's director of education, Glenn Rodger, insist that the Executive will consider the closure of both Hutton and Burnmouth schools. The confusion seems to have arisen over the route the school bus would take from Hutton to Chirnside. In the case of school closures the shortest route to the receiving school has to be identified by the council. For Hutton pupils going to Chirnside the shortest route is via the Blue Stane Ford. However, it is not the route the bus would take as SBC want to avoid the ford, and when this was explained to the Executive they accepted that and agreed to consider the school closure. However, some Hutton parents believe that the council plan to use the shorter route to avoid seeking approval from the education minister. Aileen Orr, Chair of Hutton School Action Group said: "We were astonished to find the education department had altered the route to Chirnside through a dangerous ford. "We have no intentions of putting our children's lives in danger, and the SBC officials obviously thought they could ride roughshod over us, we intend to fight to the end on this." Scottish Borders Council education officials have described the claims as "ridiculous rumours". "Scottish Borders Council understands that parents are upset and very disappointed by the council decision but this claim by the Action Group is simply wrong," said Leona Bendall, SBC's education communications manager. "The facts are that in a conversation with the Scottish Executive on Friday morning to clarify the timescale for sending them the paperwork to enable them to consider the decision, education officials were asked what route has been used in deciding if the matter needed to be referred to the Minister. "The Act actually says that when measuring the distance for referral to Scottish Ministers, the distance should be by the shortest route to school. But in the case of Hutton the SE were informed that SBC had used the longer route to avoid a ford and this was accepted by the Scottish Executive. "Scottish Executive intends to consider this request, together with SBC's request to close Burnmouth school in due course - a decision on both schools can be expected in the New Year." Burnmouth parents are also under the impression that Thursday's decision was the end of the road for their campaign to keep the school open. Parents do not have a right to appeal directly to the Scottish Executive to overturn the council's decision the Executive, the Executive's role is to make sure the council went through the proper procedure. Caroline Clough, one of the parents at Burnmouth School who has campaigned to keep the school open said after the meeting: "We are very, very disappointed at the outcome. "Everyone has now just accepted the decision and we are trying to sort out what's best for the children." When the school closes in June 2005 the council intends to transfer the Burnmouth children to Eyemouth Primary School but Caroline believes that many of the children will not go there because parents are requesting places at Reston and Ayton primary schools instead. "We are going to try and meet up once a week to keep the continuity, but it will mean the end of Burnmouth Gala Day because it is based on the school." Burnmouth parents appear to be resigned to the fact that they have lost the battle to keep the school open and only one parent turned up for a meeting in the village, held on Monday, to discuss Thursday's decision.
It appears that the Burnmouth parents have thrown in the towel (if their roll has suddenly dropped to under 80% it may mean that they can't appeal anyhow-see earler info from an obviously pretty well informed source) But the Hutton SAG is going ahead with an appeal. More of this anon. Doubtless