10 November 2020

Engagement on future of Gartly School steps up

A series of engagement sessions have taken place to ensure the Gartly community have an ongoing opportunity to liaise with council officers on the future of their local school.

A report due to be discussed by Marr Area Committee in March has been delayed until November 24, owing to the unparalleled situation the local authority’s education officers have found themselves in due to the pandemic.

Laurence Findlay, Director of Education and Children’s Services at Aberdeenshire Council explained: “Every aspect of our work as a local authority is now carefully risk assessed, every leadership team in every school has endured a steep learning curve, with our support, to ensure working practices are as safe as possible. We’ve responded as best we can to evolving national guidance, alongside contingency planning, liaising with national colleagues and navigating the impact all of this has on young people and families, on our staff and learning, teaching and assessment, and on procurement, recruitment and funding.

“It’s important to explain all of this to highlight why the delay on working through the next steps for Gartly School has been absolutely necessary. We have had to focus on educational benefit in the here and now for the last few months, but we remain committed to fully exploring all options for the future of the school in the long term alongside the local community.”

Gartly School closed due to an extensive oil leak in December 2018. Further to the £451,000 which has been spent on remedial works at the Gartly School site over an extended period, it is estimated a further £872, 000 would be needed to reinstate the building (following the discovery of further contamination underneath the main building). And there is still an element of risk in the success of this further work in order to meet strict public health requirements.

A report being prepared for Marr Area Committee will seek views from local members on whether they would prefer to re-instate the school – taking account of the risk that this may or may not fully satisfy strict public health requirements – or be provided with a full options appraisal on future options for the local school network following extensive engagement with the wider local community.

One of these options could ultimately lead to the closure of Gartly School but there is a presumption against the closure of rural schools. The educational benefit of doing so would have to be the primary driver in order for this to be progressed, in consultation with the community.

Marr Area Committee Chair, Cllr Moira Ingleby said: “We appreciate the pressing nature of this from the Gartly community’s point of view and we have been pushing to get this back on the table at the earliest possible opportunity. I think it’s really useful that parents as well as community representatives have now had the opportunity to have a further discussion with senior officers and we will look forward to considering the updated report.”

Find out more about forthcoming committee discussions at: https://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/