BEFORE DISCUSSIONS HAVE even taken place on the future of rural primary schools in Moray, one of them appears to have closed its doors for good with very little fanfare.
Inveravon Primary School has existed since 1633 with the current school housed in an 18th century building at Ballindalloch.
According to the Moray Council website, the school has been “significantly refurbished and extended”, providing warm and attractive décor with modern facilities. It has also seen regular use by the local toddler group and a hall that separates into two classrooms.
However, according to posts on the school’s parent council social media group, 384 years of providing education in the small community came to a close on the final day of term last Friday.
The post from the parent council said: “Today, Inveravon Primary School will close its doors for the last time – and for the first time in 384 years there will no longer be a school in the parish.
“For the generations of families that have been a part of the school as pupils, parents or staff it will be a very difficult day but the memories will be with us forever.”
A parent who did not wish to be named told insideMoray that the axe fell two weeks ago when a representative from Moray Council’s Education Department visited the school and advised that “Inveravon was being mothballed as it had gone down to two pupils.
“The two pupils are to move to Knockando and the Council are changing the Knockando catchment to include Marypark and other areas. They will provide a bus to take the pupils from the new catchment to Knockando and this should encourage more parents to send their children there.
“Currently there are pupils who attend other schools outside the Inveravon catchment area because they do not like sending their children to a school that has such a small pupil roll.”
Another parent said that the move would hopefully strengthen the future for Knockando who are understood to now be on the verge of having enough pupils to justify another teacher. There has been local speculation that another reason for the closure is that the Head Teacher at Inveravon had gone to Linkwood primary and no replacement could be found.
Moray Councillors were warned that several schools were well below their capacity – in a report in November 2016, Inveravon topped the list at just 28% capacity with 13 pupils. At the time Councillor George Alexander, who is now the Leader of Moray Council, 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 half full.”
This morning we spoke to the chairman of Moray Council’s children and young peoples services committee, Councillor Tim Eagle, who explained that the decision came from the parents themselves.
He told insideMORAY that council officers spoke with staff who agreed it was in the best interests of the remaining pupils that they move and so transition arrangements were put in place for the staff.
Councillor Eagle said: “This was a great community led change and whilst it is sad to see a school with so much history be mothballed it is nice that this has been directed by the community and facilitated by officers at Moray Council.
“I was kept informed of progress along the way. The school is not being closed but as there are no pupils it will be mothballed for now whilst we look into what it is the best interest of the community as a whole. A report on this will be brought before a future meeting of the Children’s and Young Peoples committee.”
Councillor Eagle accepted the point when it was put to him that the wider Moray public should have been made aware of the changes.