DCSIMG

1998: Mike Russell helps save school. 2010: Same primary faces axe again

A PRIMARY school near education secretary Michael Russell's home faces closure, 12 years after he fought to save it.

• Education secretary Michael Russell with his wife, Cath, who is headteacher of another school due to close

Kilmodan Primary in Argyll and Bute is earmarked for the axe next summer in a council shake-up of schools.

The Scottish Government said the decision was a matter for the local authority.

However, it could be called in for a decision by Mr Russell, who will be the SNP candidate for the area in the May Scottish Parliamentary election, if proper procedure under the new rural schools act is not followed.

Argyll and Bute Council yesterday revealed the proposals, which would reduce the number of schools from 80 to 54.

The authority claims the cuts will create savings of up to 15 million by 2014.

Under the plans, 26 schools would close, with pupils moving to nearby schools. All facing the axe have rolls of fewer than 100, with some having no pupils at all.

Kilmodan, which is situated in remote Glendaruel, currently has only 22 pupils.

Mr Russell was a prominent member of a campaign to save the school 12 years ago, when it was last threatened with closure.

Cleland Sneddon, the council executive director for community services, said: "We face challenging financial times. Education accounts for more than one-third of the council's total budget.

"If we don't make savings in our education service we will have to make bigger savings from other services."

He promised the decisions wouldn't be taken "lightly" or "in isolation" and that there would be full consultation.

The proposals follow a comprehensive review of the council's budget, which concluded that the overall budget must fall by 15 per cent.

That review also found 59 per cent of primary schools were less than half full.

School rolls in Argyll and Bute have been falling, with the number of school-age children predicted to fall by 13 per cent by 2015 and by 19 per cent by 2020.

It also emerged in the proposals yesterday that the school that Mr Russell's wife runs is also due to close.

Cath Russell is currently headteacher of Toward Primary, which has 20 pupils.

She will move to lead nearby Sandbank School, which has been saved.

Last night, Mr Russell said the decision was for the council to make.

He said new legislation on rural schools, passed last year, gave parents the right to be consulted.

He added: "This ensures parents have a clear right to be consulted as part of a full and transparent process and the right to appeal to ministers if that process is not carried out."It also makes sure that educational issues are fully taken into account."

A concerned parent said: "The general feeling among parents is that it is grossly unfair that our school has been picked on, because we have a large catchment area of 20 miles.

"We are now having to go out of the glen to school, and both roads out of the glen are often blocked in winter.

"It sounds to us like the decision has already been made. Area councillor Bruce Marshall, a member of the Alliance of Independent councillors who run Argyll and Bute Council, said it would not be appropriate to comment on the issue until after councillors discuss the proposals next week on 2 November, before consultation begins.

A final decision is not expected on the proposals until spring 2011.

 
 
 

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