The educational case for closure of several rural primary schools and Milne’s High School has not been made in the Sustainable Education Review consultancy report.
That is the view being expressed by the leading opposition group at Moray Council, who now say they will propose that no further action is taken on recommended closures of rural primary schools.
SNP councillors will also seek an end to speculation over the future of Milne’s High School, while calling for further investigation into the recommendations made for schools in Elgin and Forres.
Leader of the SNP opposition group, Councillor Pearl Paul, said: “The SNP Council Group has studied the recommendations from the Council’s Education Review Consultants and the many issues raised by the communities we represent.
“We have sought out further information on particular issues such as rural schools performance and funding.
“We have concluded that there is no case to progress with rural school closures in Moray and we are announcing our intention to put forward a motion that will save Moray’s rural schools at the Council meeting next week.”
Councillors will meet next Monday to discuss the Caledonian Economics consultancy report that has caused major concerns for parents throughout Moray, sparking the growth of large scale grass-roots opposition to the plans in several communities.
Administration group leaders have already indicated that discussion beyond Monday’s meeting would be required before decisions are taken – however, the SNP group will be seeking an end to the uncertainty that has faced many schools for almost a year.
Councillor Paul said: “We are disappointed in the report produced, we expected a far more radical study looking at how education can be delivered but unfortunately this report is too focussed on numbers and buildings.
“We have ascertained that Moray Council receives additional budget of around £1600 per pupil in rural schools with under 70 children and that equates to over a million pounds in additional funding to support rural education.
“Critically many of the schools lined up for closure have very good inspection reports and we cannot see how these proposals could be pursued on education grounds or, indeed, how that would be within the new Scottish Parliament legislation protecting rural schools.
“We recognise that there is a significant problem in Elgin, which is going to run out of school places in around 2 years without urgent intervention and given how critical that situation is, it is bizarre that it received only a passing mention in the consultant’s report. Therefore we support action being taken to address this as a matter of urgency.
“We also recognise that there is scope to improve the educational environment for Forres town pupils and we are prepared to consider that further.
“There is already anecdotal evidence in some of our rural schools that parents are choosing to send children elsewhere as a result of the uncertainty and that uncertainty must end now.”
Moray Council currently receives over £1million in additional funding because of the number of small rural schools in the region – funding that the SNP say the Council should not risk losing.