21 January 2021

Options for Gartly School to be discussed

Following extensive ongoing engagement with the Gartly School community and the input of Marr Area Committee, Aberdeenshire’s Education and Children’s Services Committee is to meet next week to consider the most appropriate next steps for the school.
The Committee will be asked to consider the comments of Marr councillors and make a recommendation to officers on the next steps, to either:
Pupils and staff moved out of the Gartly School building at the end of 2018 following an extensive oil leak. £451,154 has been spent on remediation work so far with an expected additional £872,000 required to reinstate the building as a school. The dilemma for officers as well as councillors is due to the fact the acceptable defined maximum level of contamination for the existing site to be reinstated as a school is zero.
While the school had a roll of 36, plus nursery children, at the time of the move, many parents have chosen to move elsewhere and the roll now stands at 8. The committee report acknowledges the difficult position parents and carers find themselves in, and the wider Gartly community who would like to see the school reinstated. It explains: ‘While the clear preference of responses received are acknowledged, the Council also needs to consider the wider requirements across the Learning Estate.’
A summary of comments from Marr Area Committee includes feedback acknowledging ‘the nature of the circumstances have not allowed a quick resolution’, highlighting the ‘importance of rural schools and their benefit to the community’, a comment that ‘there will always be families with young children needing an education’ in the area and a request to consider ‘the possible integration of pupils into Rhynie as a temporary measure’. The majority of this committee supported the reinstatement of the school.

While a full option appraisal could ultimately lead to the closure of the school, it is important to underline there is a presumption against the closure of rural schools. The educational benefit of doing so would have to be the primary driver of this being progressed, in consultation with the community.
The report is available in full by visiting https://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees.aspx?commid=494&meetid=19548
You can also watch a webcast of Education and Children’s Services Committee by visiting https://aberdeenshire.public-i.tv/core/portal/home