THE CONSTRUCTION of a controversial new primary school at Westway was given the go ahead at a meeting of the full Angus Council on Wednesday evening.
The decision was taken to approve the merging of Muirfield and Timmergreens primary schools.The debate over the need for such a school has raged for months, but now that it has been approved, the matter has taken on a new level of seriousness.
Leader of the Muirfield Action Group Ewan Smith told the Herald: “To be honest it’s what I was expecting. It’s obvious that a lot of councillors are not bothering to listen to our concerns, although there are some that have been taking on board what we’ve been saying.
“There have been a number of communications sent with our very strong arguments against this new school, and they have blatantly been ignored.”
He continued: “Rest assured, we will be making an application for a call-in by the Scottish Government, and this will no doubt be just one of many such applications.”
“I hope that we get someone with some common sense, I’m sure that the Minister for Education will see that this is not beneficial educationally.”
Mr Smith explained that a school can only be closed on educational grounds, but he says in this case it has been all about the money that can be saved by merging two schools.
He added: “I think this decision is unacceptable for my children, and indeed for anybody’s children.”
Councillor Peter Nield, education convener, said his reactions were conflicted by Wednesday’s outcome.
When asked if he was happy he said: “Yes and no, it’s a shame that parents, even just one, or indeed any parent is upset by this, we wouldn’t want to do that.”
“I am exceptionally pleased however that it has gone through.”
The plan will now be put forward to the Scottish Government for approval, and at the end of the statutory period, which coincides with the end of the council’s summer recess, he believes that real progress will be made.
Councillor Nield is keen for the disharmony between parents and council to come to an end, and for this to happen he wants them to take an active part in the new school’s development. He explained: “We’ve always tried to be inclusive.
“We will continue to work with parents and get them involved in the design of the school.”
“We will also make sure and include the children, and get them to work with the builders in choosing things like the décor and materials.
“We now need to bring the two parents councils together, which always takes a bit of doing. You often find that whenever you bring two organisations together there is a period of settling in.
“You always get resistance when you build a new school. For instance, when we built Woodside in Carnoustie, there were similar arguments against it.
“And yet, once the children had been in the new school for a few months I received letters of apology from people who had previously objected.”
However, there are still those in the council, Donald Morrison among them, that are not on board with the idea, and the vote on Wednesday was described as a narrow victory.
He said: “Everyone agrees improvement to the Arbroath school estate is required and pinpointing the greatest need. Sadly this process has been a missed opportunity and fails to respond to repeated anxieties.
“The HMIE reporter even questions how children’s learning experiences will improve at the Hospitalfield site.
“Concerns were raised throughout including Timmergreen Parent Council’s formal response in 2009 who like other Parent Councils felt the consultation had been worded in such an unhelpful manner parents could be put off taking part in the process.”
For him, safety was a major concern: “Pushing the Hospitalfield site leaves the same early anxieties about crossing the Westway despite the Council’s own project objective to ensure safe routes to school to encourage walking and cycling.
“There remain far too many questions about the worth of the consultation, best value and the true priority during financially hard times.
“Therefore, I can still not support this improvement to the school estate as it stands.”