East Dunbartonshire councillors vote to proceed with first two primary school mergers

Parents protesting against the merger
Parents protesting against the merger

There were heated scenes in East Dunbartonshire Council’s marina HQ last night, as councillors voted to plough ahead with two school mergers.

There was near-universal support for Lenzie Primary and Lenzie Moss Primary to merge in a new building on the current Lenzie Moss site - with only independent councillor Jack Young objecting to the proposal.

Concerns raised by the Lenzie Moss Parent Council about traffic and safety issues were discussed, with council leader Rhondda Geekie vowing that the issues would be addressed.

But the merger between Woodhill Primary and Auchinairn Primary, with a new school being built on the Woodhill site, proved far more divisive.

In front of a busy public gallery, SNP group leader Ian Mackay bemoaned the “flawed one-size fits all model”, insisting that the administration had become trapped in a “strait-jacket”, where “the only answer to improving the primary school estate is closure, merger and new build” rather than seriously considering refurbishment of existing schools.

He also slammed the decision to close a facility in “one of East Dunbartonshire Council’s most deprived areas” and questioned the accuracy of projected figures showing a decline in school rolls.

Bishopbriggs SNP councillor Gordan Low moved an amendment to the motion, proposing that the council “note the overwhelming opposition of both school communities to the proposed merger and agrees not to proceed with the proposal”.

Speaking to the amendment he said: “I am I think the only elected member here who actually attended Auchinairn Primary School – up till the fire in the late 70s. Auchinairn was a fine school then, and remains so today.

“Auchinairn recovered from the fire. But what the vandals couldn’t achieve in the 70s, this council seems determined to achieve now.”

However, the Labour, Lib Dem and Conservative administration councillors all voted for the closures, defeating the amendment by 14 votes to 10.

And council Leader Rhondda Geekie insisted the wider community would benefit from the two new schools - the first of a series planned as part of the Primary School Improvement Programme.

She said: “This decision brings two new schools a step closer to becoming a reality. Subject to the consideration of our Council decision by the Scottish Government, we will then begin the design and development stage, benefiting from and adapting the exemplar school design that has been created for the new Lairdsland Primary School and which is being adopted Scotland-wide.

“We will ensure that as these new schools progress all those in the school and wider community continue to be consulted and involved during each stage of the process and that they are kept informed of developments through regular communications.”

Campaigners said they were “hugely disappointed” at the decision but vowed to fight on.

Woodhill mum Debbie Gribbon said: “The next step is preparing our evidence for the Scottish Government and showing the many blunders East Dunbartonshire Council have made throughout this process. And come next election, the voting last night will be remembered.”