Campaigners fighting to save Milne’s High from closure under a widespread review of Moray’s school estate have hit back at comments made this week by the leader of Moray Council.
A cross-party group of councillors is yet to report on the study conducted by consultants Caledonian Economics suggesting a new ‘campus-style’ reorganisation of Moray’s schools that would include the closure of Milne’s High in Fochabers.
However, a report by Audit Scotland appeared to be used earlier this week by council leaders to indicate they were already moving in the direction of accepting the consultant’s findings.
The Audit Scotland report into national education was used to highlight how Moray had managed a 6% increase in attainment for S4-6 – while finding budget savings of 6% over three years.
A spokeswoman for the Save Milne’s High School community action group admitted this was a “good effort” by pupils, staff and Moray Council.
She added: “However, the Council media department seem to be heralding the report as an endorsement by implication of the Caledonian Economics’ proposals in the Sustainable Education Review (SER).
“The review does fulfil the Audit Scotland remit and Council responsibility to ensure improvements in pupil achievement and efficient use of resources – but none of the recommendations in the report can be construed as recommending school closures as a means to improve attainment.
“Indeed, although unsurprisingly not mentioned in the Council media release, Audit Scotland clearly state the area which has the greatest and most immediate impact on pupil attainment.
“It should be noted that the Audit Scotland report highlights that Moray spends less per head on secondary pupil education than any rural council in Scotland – and is in the bottom five for such funding in Scotland overall.
“While increased investment does not directly equate to improved performance, Audit Scotland make clear that targeted investment in key areas, such as teacher training, is highly effective.”
The campaign group are insisting that closing Milne’s High School with its “fine record for successful outcomes for pupils, both academic and vocational, in pursuit of some unproven and educationally questionable goal of 750-1000 pupil schools is clearly a flawed proposal”.
The spokeswoman continued: “The Council attainment statistics, and those from other councils, show that school size has no direct correlation to achievement – indeed the smaller schools very often perform better.
“Far from improving attainment, it would actually deny hundreds of children extra-curricular, rest and study time, all vital in promoting attainment, through increased travel.
“Clearly the focus of the Council improvement process should follow the Audit Scotland exemplar of best practice used by their colleagues in East Dumbartonshire and East Renfrewshire, using targeted investment in measures to create the headroom for increased investment in CPD and specialist training for teachers and leadership development for head teachers and senior management staff in all the schools in the region.
“Thus we can increase attainment and maintain all the schools in Moray as a vital part of their individual communities.”