Furious campaigners were last night making plans to increase pressure on Moray Council as the long awaited independent report on the future of schools was published.
Fears over the future of several rural primary schools and one secondary school proved to be justified as the report from consultants Caledonian Economics recommended wholesale closures.
In the Sustainable Education Review report for the local authority, which has taken over a year to produce, the consultants say that Milne’s High School should close with pupils moving to a new ‘super campus’ surrounding the new Elgin High School.
A new campus meanwhile would be built in Keith that would take in the existing Grammar School site along with Newmill and Crossroads.
Rural primaries to go include Botriphnie where some pupils would move to the new Keith school, while it is suggested in the report that Craigellachie Primary would also merge with either Aberlour or Rothes. Consultants also say that a new school should be built amalgamating pupils from Glenlivet, Knockando and Inveravon.
Around Forres three primary schools would become two, with a new school build at Pilmuir replacing Logie and Dallas schools.
This morning one of the councillors who was a part of the steering group overseeing the consultant’s report slammed the report as falling short of his expectations.
[box] “I will simply not stand for that and will work with my council colleagues and local communities to find a better way forward.” – Councillor Sean Morton [/box] Fochabers/Lhanbryde Councillor Sean Morton said that some of the recommendations were worthy of discussion, but added: “It is far less comprehensive than I expected and falls short of my expectations for a report as costly as this one.
“I am pleased to have been part of the steering group – we certainly succeeded in ensuring that the consultants carried out their review in a transparent way.
“I cannot say I am entirely pleased by their findings though. There are many glaring omissions to my mind.
“Where are the plans for Elgin schools which are bursting at the seams? Where are the plans for Buckie High which is in desperate need of investment? Where are the plans to use technology to revolutionise our education system?
“I had hoped for a great deal from this review. I hoped to see schools like Milne’s, Buckie and Keith turn into Centres of Excellence to serve the east of Moray.
“Instead, plans for Buckie and Keith are thin on the ground and my own community would be hollowed out with recommendations to close Portgordon and Mosstodloch, Milne’s Primary and Milne’s High.
“I will simply not stand for that and will work with my council colleagues and local communities to find a better way forward.
“As a Councillor I have a duty to think of all of Moray and I will listen carefully to what people say about this report but the early reaction is certainly that it could have been more creative and offered so much more.”
Dougie Potter, the chairman of the Save Milne’s High group set up when it became clear that the school was the only secondary in Moray being targeted for closure, said: “In 10 to 15 years there will be a dual carriageway from Aberdeen to Inverness and it will reduce travelling times.
“The east of Moray will be an attractive option with cheap housing and a good school – Milne’s is a victim of geography. There are the same number of pupils at Keith and we are not much below Lossiemouth.”
Crossroad’s Primary parent group member Fiona Wallace said that they would increase their efforts to fight any attempt to close their school. She said: “Keith Grammar is not fit for purpose and we don’t think it would work to create a super-campus there – and especially not within a rural area.
“If you take away the school you take away just about every service we have, I don’t think it is a viable option that they are proposing.”
Kirsty Franklin, who has two daughters at Dallas Primary, said: “I’d just be heartbroken if the school were to close as it is the heart of soul of the community. Both my girls go there and it would be 20 or 25 minutes travelling into Forres each day for them.”
A full meeting of the Moray Council will now discuss the recommendations of the report in November.