Controversial plans to merge four local schools into one campus on a site in Ardrossan will reach a crucial stage this week when the outcome of a public consultation on the issue is considered by North Ayrshire Council’s ruling SNP Cabinet.
The Cabinet meeting, which begins at 2:30pm on Tuesday (October 29) in Council headquarters, is open to the public and will receive deputations from Parent Councils of schools affected by the merger proposal. The seven-strong SNP Cabinet will then consider the public’s response to the plan, which was overwhelmingly against the merger. Also expected to attend the meeting are education representatives from local churches, a teachers’ rep and two members of the North Ayrshire Youth Council.
As previously reported by the3towns, 77% of respondents to the Council’s public consultation said they did not agree with the plan to merge Stevenston’s Auchenharvie Academy with Ardrossan Academy and two schools for children with additional needs – Irvine’s Haysholm School and Ardrossan’s James McFarlane School. Only 16% agreed with the proposal, with 7% stating they had no preference. The massive public rejection of the Council’s plan was despite the consultation document inviting people to agree with the merger, a form of words many consider to constitute a leading question.
When responses were broken down, 85% of people associated with Auchenharvie Academy and its feeder primary schools rejected the proposal, with 8% supporting the merger and 7% expressing no preference.
A majority of respondents associated with Ardrossan Academy and its feeder primaries were also against the plan – 56%, with 39% in support and 5% indicating no preference.
Respondents from Irvine’s Haysholm School rejected the plan too – 60% disagreed with the question posed in the consultation, 29% agreed and 13% had no preference.
Only respondents associated with James McFarlane School in Ardrossan backed the merger – 67% agreed, 29% disagreed and 4% stated no preference.
A recent public meeting in Stevenston, organised by the Parent Council of Auchenharvie Academy, was unanimously against the school being merged and pupils having to travel to Ardrossan for their secondary education. This was followed by Haysholm Parent Council savaging the merger proposal and explaining why attempting to include children with additional needs in a mainstream secondary school campus would have a seriously detrimental impact on their education and well-being.
Despite such strong public opposition, the document to be considered by the SNP Cabinet asks the councillors to “advise officers on the next steps for a decision to be taken to develop an educational campus by the amalgamation of Auchenharvie and Ardrossan Academies and Haysholm and James McFarlane Schools and at the preferred location of the Ardrossan Academy site.”