Merger plans for East Dunbartonshire primary schools progressed by councillors

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PLANS to merge primary schools in East Dunbartonshire are moving to the next stage - despite fierce oposition from some councillors.

A special meeting of the full council was held last week to consider a list of ‘viable’ options prepared by council officers, made-up solely of merged schools in new-build facilities.

The SNP group, supported by independent councillors, put forward an amendment suggesting that further information should be given to parents and elected members, who should be consulted further before any final shortlist was drawn up.

But the amendment was defeated by 14 votes to 10 as members of the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat administration coalition elected to push ahead - in front of a packed public gallery.

More concerned teachers and parents watched proceedings via video link in a separate room in the council’s Southbank Marina headquarters.

The list of mergers will now go forward to further ‘informal’ consultation before returning to the council chamber in March.

Individual plans to merge schools would then proceed to statutory consultation before any final decisions are made.

Council leader Rhondda Geekie said: “We agreed at our last meeting in November that officers should carry out a detailed analysis of all of the options that arose through the workshops.

“That analysis included educational benefits and cost, and ruled out the options that were not viable to proceed to this consultation stage.

“Many of our primary school buildings require modernisation and this programme we have undertaken to improve the primary estate is a great opportunity to give our young people and our teachers modern, flexible educational space that will enhance their learning and teaching experiences respectively.”

But SNP group leader Ian Mackay cast doubt on the methods used to come up with the shortlist, and the number of pupils expected to attend the prospective new schools.

He said: “At the moment we have an average of 228 pupils in each primary school and the new Lairdsland school will have 285.

“These new schools have an average of 526. This is a 230 per cent increase in size of schools, which is a huge cultural change.”

He also labelled the consultation process so far “restrictive” and “unrepresentative”, while insisting that projected pupil numbers for 2020 had risen by around 1,000 over the past 12 months and could rise again - throwing the plans into disarray.

The consultation on the options will take place between January 7 to February 4, with an independent survey being sent out to 10,000 randomly selected households. The questionnaire will also be available from council buildings, libraries and online.

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