17 June 2021

Area Committee considers options for Gartly School

Members of the Marr Area Committee made recommendations today (Tuesday, June 15) about the future of Gartly School which will now be considered by the Education and Children’s Services Committee.

The committee considered a full options appraisal which will help determine the next steps for the school. The report included feedback from parents and residents who participated in a public meeting last month.

Councillors serving on the area committee decided to narrow the options as recommended in the report. They emphasised the importance of a local school serving small communities, that the process of determining the school’s future should be parent-led with the opinions of those most impacted being taken into account, and consultation and engagement with local families is of paramount importance. The committee agreed all the options outlined in the report must continue to be considered and stated their preference is for Gartly School to be reinstated. 

The future of Gartly School will now be considered by the Education and Children’s Services Committee at a future meeting, possibly on Thursday, August 26.

In order to provide the best possible educational arrangements for the time being, Gartly School is to be mothballed from August 2021 and the remaining pupils are choosing an alternative local school in the interim. Presenting the options to council committees, seeking agreement from elected members and allowing for budget considerations before any potential building works could commence will take several months.

Gartly School has been operating from an alternative location since an oil leak was identified at the facility in December 2018. Despite extensive remediation undertaken to excavate, process and properly dispose of a considerable volume of contaminated soil and other material costing in excess of £450,000, it has not been possible to resolve the problem. The advice is that zero level of contamination – or one which is not detectable by analysis – would have to be achieved before the building could be re-occupied for educational purposes.

An estimated further £872,000 would be required to demolish part of the building, carry out further excavations and reinstate the building on its current site. But the dilemma for officers as well as elected members is due to the fact there is no guarantee contamination can be removed. All other options would require £245,000 for the land remediation at Gartly.

Cllr John Latham, Marr Area Committee chair, said: “Considering the future of any school is always a difficult decision. I would like to offer assurance that no stone has been left unturned during what has been a comprehensive process to determine the best outcome for pupils’ parents and carers, teachers and the wider community. Today (Tuesday, June 15) sees a further step towards the conclusion to what has been a fraught period for everyone concerned. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to letting us know their thoughts on what should be done.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee chair Cllr Gillian Owen added: “I would like to thank the children and parents of both Gartly and Rhynie Schools for their patience and for their collaboration in what has been a real time effort in coping with a difficult situation.

“I am grateful too for the work council officers have undertaken in consulting with the community as widely as possible. Members of the Education and Children’s Services Committee will now consider the Marr Area Committee’s recommendations as the next step of this process.”

For the full options appraisal considered by the Marr Area Committee please visit https://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees.aspx?commid=10&meetid=19797

A recording of the Marr Area Committee is available on the Aberdeenshire Council YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiJ6RoteOgBtMQqbQPOVvyw