FEEDBACK on the proposal to amalgamate Muirfield and Timmergreens primary schools into a new single school at Hospitalfield has been published by Angus Council.
And a report prepared independently by HM Inspectorate of Education has also been released this week.
The council’s consultation report summarises the comments and representations received during the consultation process, along with the authority’s response.
In something of an understatement, it revealed: “There has been a varied response to the consultation with a number of responses in support of the proposal and others which are clearly opposed. It would appear that only a minority of parents/carers have responded to the consultation.”
Unsurprisingly, the report states that a requirement to provide safe routes to the new school, including a safe method of pupils crossing the Westway, has generated the highest number of responses from the consultation. It adds that it also appears to be the key issue for those who are in opposition to the proposal.
It goes on: “The site appraisal process had regard to road safety considerations which are applicable to all four of the site options, since there would be a requirement for some pupils to cross the Westway no matter what site is selected.
“That appraisal concluded that the Hospitalfield site, with its central location within the new combined catchment area, provides the opportunity to manage Westway pupil crossing arrangements more effectively than would be the case for the other sites.”
The report also states that concerns were expressed about the merits of spending £8 million on a new school in the current economic climate, and the possible impact this may have on other schools in Arbroath.
It goes on: “Following earlier consultation, the West side of Arbroath has been identified as the first priority for the council to invest in the Arbroath school estate.
“If the budget provision of £8 million was not allocated towards this project, it would be allocated to other capital projects which have been identified as priorities to support and enhance the range of services that the council delivers throughout Angus.”
The report went forward to yesterday’s (Thursday) meeting of the education committee to be endorsed before a decision is taken at a meeting of the full council on Wednesday, June 22.
Education convener Peter Nield commented: “This proposal been the subject of extensive consultation since March, 2009, and I would like to thank all those who have taken the time to consider the proposals. The input of parents and the wider community has been most valuable.”
The report can be viewed on the council’s website at www.angus.gov.uk/arbroathschoolsproject
The HM Inspectorate of Education report states that there is significant opposition to the proposals from parents and carers of children attending Muirfield Primary School.
It indicates that most of the comments submitted either at the public meeting, in writing as part of the consultation process, including directly to HMIE, or in response to a survey carried out independently by parents and carers outwith the Muirfield Parent Council relate to concerns about traffic management and road safety.
Inspectors feel that staff at both schools have mixed views of the proposals. They acknowledge the benefits of working in a modern purpose-built school and welcome opportunities to work with new colleagues.
However, they do not feel that the educational benefits of the proposal have been set out sufficiently clearly.
The report goes on: “Staff are aware of weaknesses in the accommodation within the existing schools but do not feel that these have an adverse impact on children’s learning experiences.
“Many staff are also concerned that a school with a significantly larger combined roll will have a negative impact on school ethos. A few are concerned that the move will affect their employment conditions. Staff have also expressed concern that the council will not take full account of their views on the detail of classroom design.”
The report continues: “The proposal from Angus Council to discontinue education provision at Muirfield and Timmergreens primary schools and build a new school adjacent to Hospitalfield House should have a positive impact on children’s educational experiences.
“The current school buildings are in a declining physical state and opportunities to bring them up to an acceptable standard are not viable.
“Building a new school in West Arbroath is a sensible and positive solution to the council’s phased plans to improve the school estate and manage falling school rolls efficiently and effectively.”
The HMIE report can be read at http://www.hmie.gov.uk/Generic/School+Consultations