27 August 2021

Options for Gartly School considered by committee

Members of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee made further recommendations on Thursday, August 26 about the future of Gartly School.
The committee considered a full options appraisal with ten possibilities assessed in detail, as well as looking at feedback captured through engagement with the local community and recommendations from Marr Area Committee.

They agreed to narrow the number of options on the table before officers progress to formally consulting with the local community on the next steps. They decided to pursue Option 2 – Formalise current arrangement (effectively merge Gartly with Rhynie). As reinstatement of the original building is no longer being considered, part of the statutory consultation will consider possible permanent closure of the school.

Gartly School operated from an alternative location after 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.

The decision to mothball the school from this month was taken earlier this year and all remaining pupils chose an alternative local school where they have begun the new school year. Mothballing ensures the best possible educational arrangements for the Gartly children for the time-being and while extensive engagement and consultation is ongoing.

Cllr Gillian Owen, Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee chair, said: “The council has done its utmost to find the best solution that meets the needs of the children, parents and local community. Considering the future of a school is not a decision taken lightly and many factors have to be taken into account. At the end of the day, the children’s education is of paramount importance and this was at the heart of the conclusion we reached during the meeting.”

The motion to agree Option 2 was carried with 9 votes to 3, after an amendment was sought to keep the reinstatement of Gartly as an option and if this was not progressed to merge with Kennethmont.

Committee vice chair Cllr Rosemary Bruce added: “I would like to thank parents and the local community for their patience and council officers for their hard work and dedication in identifying solutions that meet the best needs of the children at Gartly School.”

Officers will now progress with plans for a formal consultation with the local community. Further details will be provided to all schools within the Huntly cluster as well as local residents in the coming weeks.

To read the report in full please visit Aberdeenshire Council - Committees and Meetings

To watch a webcast of the Education and Children’s Services Committee please visit Home - Aberdeenshire Council Webcasting (public-i.tv)