Parents of pupils attending Auchenharvie Academy are making clear their opposition to North Ayrshire Council’s controversial plan to merge the Stevenston school with Ardrossan Academy.
In letters to the3towns and on the Auchenharvie Academy Parent Council Facebook page, parents set out their concerns over the proposals and how they could impact on children who would have to travel from Stevenston to Ardrossan for their secondary education. North Ayrshire Council’s SNP administration has already stated its preferred site for the proposed new school would be the current location of Ardrossan Academy.
Although the Council is presently carrying out a public consultation on the merger plan, the fact SNP councillors have publicly backed a new school and indicated their belief it should be located in Ardrossan has caused concern for parents, with some expressing the opinion that they fear it is already a ‘done deal’.
Parents and other interested members of the public have until next Friday (June 14) to respond to the public consultation. Veron Maneely of the Auchenharvie Academy Parent Council said, “I encourage everyone to have their say. Even if you’ve already submitted your views, further submissions can be left at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Mrs Maneely said she attended almost all of the public meetings held by North Ayrshire Council regarding the schools merger plan, but had been left “exasperated” that the local authority seemed determined to press ahead despite opposition from parents in both Stevenston and Ardrossan. the3towns understands concerns have also been raised by parents of pupils who attend two schools for children with additional needs – James McFralane School in Ardrossan and Haysholm School in Irvine – which are also earmarked to be relocated to the proposed Three Towns campus in Ardrossan.
Veron Maneely flagged-up the issue of children’s safety if a new super-school was located almost adjacent to St Matthews Academy, which itself was built to accommodate pupils from two merged schools – St Andrews Academy in Saltcoats and Kilwinning’s St Michael’s Academy. Mrs Maneely said, “The volume of traffic at the beginning and close of the school day would see 1,673 pupils from the new campus added to 1,250 pupils from St Matthews all arriving and leaving en masse.
“Officials from the Council’s Roads department admit it will be a challenge to alleviate the traffic problem, but they don’t say how it would be possible.”
Another Stevenston parent said, “This is already a deprived area and a lot of children walk to school because parents do not have transport or can’t afford the bus fares. It costs £8.00 a week for a mega-rider [bus ticket] for my daughter, but if you are a single parent on benefits, parents on benefits or part of a low-income family then the additional expense could lead to an increase in poverty.” The parent suggested there could even be a rise in pupil absenteeism if parents simply could not afford the cost of sending children from Stevenston to Ardrossan.
It was also pointed out there is currently no bus route that would service a school located on the site of the current Ardrossan Academy. One Stevenston parent commented that it would be much easier for her daughter to get a bus to Kilwinning.
Last week, in a letter to the3towns, an Ardrossan parent called for a united front against the Council’s merger proposal, arguing that Ardrossan and Stevenston residents should not be squabbling over which town offered the ‘least bad’ site for a new school. The parent of pupils at Ardrossan Academy said that, instead, everyone “should work together to say ‘no’ to the proposal”.
If the merger plan goes ahead, both Ardrossan Academy and Auchenharvie Academy would be closed. A new Three Towns campus would accommodate all pupils, including those from James McFarlane and Haysholm, and would open in August 2016, according to the Council’s schedule.
The cost of a new super-school is put at £42.5m, with the SNP Scottish Government making available £22.5m and North Ayrshire Council supplying the balance.
Next Friday (June 14), Auchenharvie Academy Parent Council will hand-in a petition to North Ayrshire Council headquarters in Irvine, containing signatures of local people who oppose the merger plan. Copies of the petition will also be sent to the Scottish Government and Education Scotland.