23 April 2021

Gartly School survey results shared with community

Aberdeenshire Council is currently working on a full options appraisal to help decide the next steps for Gartly School. As part of this, engagement with the community is ongoing and the results of a survey which closed earlier this month have been shared.

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. Public Health Medicine at NHS Grampian have stated that all contamination requires to be removed before the school can be re-occupied. 

An expected 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 are no guarantees the plans outlined would ensure all contamination is removed. All other options would require £245,000 for the land remediation at Gartly.

The recent survey was shared with the wider Huntly community and received 152 responses. It outlined 7 options for residents to consider, including reinstatement of the school on its current site, merging the school with others and building a new ‘community hub’. 118 participants indicated that reinstatement of the school was ‘not worth pursuing’, while 121 indicated that a merger with Rhynie School (where the school is currently located) would be their ‘preferred option’, ‘second preference’ or at least ‘worth pursuing’. This was the most popular of the options outlined.

A previous survey of parents at the school, with seven responses, showed that all preferred to reinstate the school. Another, involving parents within the wider local catchment area, gained 35 responses and at that time most had indicated either reinstating the school or building a new school would be worth exploring further. 

The full details of all surveys have now been shared with the local community and engagement with parents is ongoing. A further public engagement event will take place on 11 May 2021.

Laurence Findlay, Director of Education and Children’s Services reiterated: “Our Education and Children’s Services Committee made it clear they are keen to see all options for the local area to be developed in full, recognising that it is important to consider the long-term benefits of all possible options, including reinstatement, for the community and for the school.

“While this process is ongoing, we are hugely grateful to parents, pupils and staff at both Gartly and Rhynie schools for their patience, and for all the work they have done in difficult circumstances. Ongoing engagement with parents and carers as well as staff will remain an absolute priority and our learning estates team continues to be in regular dialogue with families about the next steps.”

Officers are expected to return to Marr Area Committee with the outcomes of the full options appraisal in June.