Rural schools to come under closure threat as numbers fall

Inveravon - at only
Inveravon Primary School – at only 28% capacity its future is under threat.

NEW FIGURES HAVE revealed that Moray has almost 3000 empty classroom places – with at least two new primary schools being planned for the immediate future.

However, several rural schools are well below their capacity – some as low as 30% – prompting renewed calls for a reorganisation that would see several schools amalgamating, resulting in some closures.

The figures have been published two years after the ruling council administration were defeated in their attempts to reorganise the school estate in Moray, with several of their own members refusing to vote for any plans that would result in the closure of rural schools.

Now a senior member of the administration insists that with rolls on the increase in Elgin and massive new housing developments planned, new schools are essential. However, Councillor George Alexander has added that the figures reveal “shocking” stats on rural schools.

He said: “What is really shocking is how low the rolls are in some schools – some are down to 50% or even 30% of their capacity.

“We really need to amalgamate some of these smaller schools into larger ones – these are big buildings being kept open to have only have full.”

Schools now under a renewed threat include Ineravon at 28% capacity with just 13 pupils, Findochty at 30% (52 pupils), Portknockie at 35% (59 pupils) and Glenlivet at 36% (15 pupils). By contrast, Elgin’s West End is running at 93% capacity while the largest primary school in Moray, New Elgin, is at 92%.

One of the councillors who led the fight to retain all rural schools was Fochabers/Lhanbryde member Douglas Ross, who while now a regional MSP still holds his council seat until the elections next year.

He insists that there should be no gut reaction to the figures, saying that they change year on year and very much depend on where people choose to live, adding: “With the massive investment that is coming to Lossiemouth, some families moving here may choose to live in rural areas.”

The issue will be discussed by the children and young people’s services committee on Wednesday, when councillors will also be informed that three of the four schools which have recently undergone significant refurbishment – Applegrove (Forres), St Gerardine’s (Lossiemouth), Millbank (Buckie) – have all increased their functional capacities as a result.