Protesting parents furious after East Dunbartonshire councillors vote in favour of primary school mergers

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THERE were angry scenes last night as East Dunbartonshire Council voted to progress controversial school mergers against the wishes of parents.

In front of a packed public gallery, administration councillors voted unanimously to proceed to statutory consultation in May on merging Lenzie and Lenzie Moss primaries on the Lenzie Moss site, and Woodhill and Auchinairn primaries on the Woodhill Primary site in Bishopbriggs.

August will see the start of statutory consultation on the merger of St Agatha’s and St Flannan’s primaries on the St Flannan’s site in Kirkintilloch - as well as the merging of St Joseph’s and St Andrew’s Primary Schools in Bearsden.

Protesters made their feelings known both inside and outside council headquarters, where around 150 parents and children waved placards calling for an 11th-hour rethink.

Inside the meeting, the SNP group tabled an unsuccessful amendment to proceed with statutory consultation on the Lenzie merger, but to carry out further discussion with parent groups on the remainder of the plans - which include possible further mergers between Balmuildy and either Meadowburn or Wester Cleddens primaries, Hillhead and Oxgang primaries, and Gartconner and Harestanes primaries.

Proposing the amendment, SNP group leader Ian Mackay slammed the plans, saying: “We have always said that this process was flawed and takes no account of public opinion.”

He added: “We have tried as a group to listen to the public and not just have a one size fits all approach. Considering only mergers is a non-starter in our opinion.”

But council leader Rhondda Geekie said the decision, which also seeks to merge Baldernock and Torrance primaries following the findings of a commission on rural education, would address the under-occupancy and future sustainability of primary schools in East Dunbartonshire.

She said: “From the outset we agreed that doing nothing about our Primary Estate was not an option.

“The recommendations we considered tonight were based on the feedback from the informal consultation we carried out alongside a range of other information and research into the best possible options to rationalise our Primary School Estate.

“We have agreed that four options should move forward to statutory consultation.

“Subject to that statutory process, this council decision aims to deliver four new build primary schools, fit for the 21st Century, fit to deliver the Curriculum for Excellence, with all the associated educational benefits for our young people and the wider benefits a new school and its facilities bring to a community.”

But parents vowed to continue fighting for the future of their schools, calling on the Scottish Government to ‘call-in’ the council’s decision for further scrutiny by ministers.

One angry Auchinairn parent said: “This entire consultation has simply been a box-ticking exercise for the councillors who had arrogantly already decided what they think is best for our children.”

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