Friday, 30 August 2013

More controversy over schools merger plan

A source close to Ardrossan Academicals Rugby Club has told the3towns a controversial ‘land swap’ proposal that could see a new super-school built on the club’s pitches “might not necessarily mean new pitches are created on the current site of Ardrossan Academy”.

the3towns has previously revealed that officials from North Ayrshire Council have had a series of meetings with Trustees of the Memorial Field, which is currently home to the rugby club and sits directly opposite Ardrossan Academy on Sorbie Road.  The purpose of the meetings was to explore the possibility of building a new secondary school on the Memorial Field.  A plan backed by North Ayrshire’s ruling SNP administration would see closure of four local schools – Ardrossan Academy, Stevenston’s Auchenharvie Academy and two schools for children with additional needs, Ardrossan’s James McFarlane School and Haysholm School in Irvine.  Under the plan, pupils from the four schools would be transferred to a new super-school in Ardrossan.

Initially, Council papers suggested the new school was planned for the site of Ardrossan Academy, but this subsequently changed to the favoured option being the Memorial Field – apparently after one member of the public suggested the Accies site during a consultation meeting held at Ardrossan Academy.

Despite no decision having been taken by councillors, either in terms of a schools merger going ahead or where any merged school should be located, Ardrossan Academicals last week held meetings with elected members of North Ayrshire Council, at which club officials set-out their vision for the future.  The source who spoke to the3towns indicated the Accies were looking for new rugby pitches to be created adjacent to a new school built on the Memorial Field – including one located within the running track that currently forms part of the St Matthews Academy sports facilities.  The source said, “This would allow a new clubhouse to be built where the current [Ardrossan] Academy sits, with the rest of the site available for further development.”

The source would not confirm what form “further development” might take, but it is believed the rugby club could seek to provide land for a housing development at the current Ardrossan Academy site.

Previously, it had been thought a ‘land swap’ between Ardrossan Academicals and North Ayrshire Council would be with the intention that a school could be built on the Memorial Field and new rugby pitches created on the current Academy site.

In another controversial development, the3towns can reveal that senior Council officials have already met with design “experts” regarding the proposed new super-school in Ardrossan.  Again, such meetings have taken place despite councillors not having taken a decision on whether or not a schools merger and new-build facility should go ahead.

In a document leaked to the3towns, Ms Carol Kirk, North Ayrshire Council’s Corporate Director (Education & Skills), states that, along with colleagues from Planning and Infrastructure, she has “spent time” with “experts from Architecture & Design Scotland developing the vision for the new Campus (although campus is beginning to feel like the wrong word”.  The document compiled by Ms Kirk is dated June 27 2013.

 Many parents of pupils attending schools that will be affected, should a merger go ahead, continue to voice opposition to the plan.  In particular, Auchenharvie Academy Parent Council has rejected the idea that children from Stevenston should have to travel to Ardrossan for their secondary education.  One parent pointed-out it would easier and cheaper for her daughter to attend Kilwinning Academy than a new school in Ardrossan.

Parents of pupils attending Ardrossan Academy and Auchenharvie Academy argue that the schools are in relatively good condition and should be retained.  They also point out that both schools recently held prize-giving ceremonies where the high standard of pupil achievement was acknowledged.    

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