Friday, 18 October 2013

Growing public opposition to schools merger



Staff in Stevenston schools were last week told by Council bosses not to distribute leaflets advertising a public meeting against the local authority’s plan to merge Auchenharvie Academy with Ardrossan Academy and two schools for children with additional needs, Irvine’s Haysholm School and Ardrossan’s James McFarlane School.

The meeting, organised by the Auchenharvie Parent Council, was held last Thursday evening (October 10) in Auchenharvie Academy and still attracted a sizeable crowd, despite what appeared to be Council attempts to prevent the Stevenston public hearing about it.

Parent Council chair Veron Maneely addressed the meeting and set out a list of reasons why Auchenharvie should be retained, rather than pupils from Stevenston being forced to travel to Ardrossan for their secondary education.  The previous day (October 9), Ms Maneely had spoken to North Ayrshire Council’s Scrutiny & Petitions Committee in support of a petition lodged by the Parent Council.  The Committee agreed to recommend that representatives of the Auchenharvie Parent Council should be allowed to make their case for retaining the school directly to the October 29 meeting of the Council’s ruling SNP Cabinet at which the merger plan will be discussed.

the3towns recently revealed that SNP councillors intend to press ahead with their schools merger proposal, despite the outcome of the Council’s public consultation on the matter showing 77% of people oppose the plan, including a majority of respondents from Ardrossan where a new merged school would be located.

Last Thursday’s public meeting was also addressed by Campbell Martin (Editor of the3towns.com).  Mr Martin said he believed a merger was not in the interests of local pupils and that both Ardrossan Academy and Auchenharvie Academy should be retained.  The former MSP also said the Council should look at providing a new separate state-of-the art facility for children with additional needs – the current merger plan would see pupils from James McFarlane School and Haysholm School accommodated at a facility within the campus of the proposed mainstream secondary school.  The Council’s proposal with regard to the additional needs pupils was condemned as “completely unacceptable” by a member of the audience who represented the Haysholm Parent Council.

Further contributions from the audience were unanimously against merging Auchenharvie with Ardrossan Academy, with many expressing anger that SNP councillors appeared to be ignoring the view of the public. 

The final decision on the plan to merge local schools in a new Three Towns campus in Ardrossan is expected to be taken at the meeting of North Ayrshire Council scheduled for November 7.  All 30 elected councillors will have a vote and the SNP minority administration of 12 councillors will need to secure at least another 3 votes – if the vote was tied at 15-each the SNP Provost would have a casting vote.  However, the merger could be stopped if 16 councillors voted against the plan.  There are currently 11 Labour councillors, 6 Independents and 1 Tory.

The audience at last Thursday’s public meeting in Auchenharvie Academy was urged to contact every councillor to ask that they back the view of local people as expressed in the Council’s own public consultation, and reject the merger plan.

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