School merger plans “may be impossible”, says councillor

PLANS to merge primary schools in East Dunbartonshire are not practical or physically possible – according to Bearsden Councillor Ian Mackay.

The SNP group leader has raised questions about the practicalities of implementing some of the options in the council’s primary school estate review questionnaire.

The questionnaire has been sent to 10,000 randomly selected households as part of a public consultation exercise.

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One of the options is to merge Bearsden and Castlehill primaries in a new school on the Castlehill site, in Rosslyn Road, one-and-a-half miles from Bearsden Cross.

However, Councillor Mackay (pictured), who is a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, with more than 35 years’ experience of development sites, has inspected the Castlehill Primary site and the surrounding roads infrastructure and has serious reservations about the plans.

He said: “Without demolishing the existing Castlehill Primary School, which incorporates the only all day council nursery and the only learning and communication resource in East Dunbartonshire, it will be impossible, in my opinion, to construct the proposed new school, which is four times the capacity of the current school.

“What happens to the existing pupils for the year this redevelopment process will take at Castlehill Primary School? They cannot be accommodated in the existing Bearsden Primary, which is completely full.

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“And what happens to the pupils in the nursery and the pupils in the learning and communications resource? They have nowhere else to go.”

Councillor Mackay says the narrow streets in the residential area could also be a problem during the construction period and wonders how they will cope with the increase in traffic, including buses.

The merger of Bearsden and Castlehill primaries is just one of several amalgamations contained in the council’s questionnaire.

Councillor Mackay said: “However desirable - or otherwise - some of the merger proposals are from an educational perspective, I doubt if they are physically possible.”

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He added: “I’m surprised that the basic work necessary to establish whether the proposed new primary schools can be accommodated on the existing sites, and if the existing roads infrastructure will be able to cope with increased traffic, has not been done prior to issue of the questionnaire.

“If it is discovered that some of the proposals are impossible to achieve the angst delivered to parents and communities has been unnecessary and is unforgivable.”

John Simmons, EDC’s director of community services, said: “The options that have been presented in the questionnaire - including the possibility of a merger between Castlehill PS and Bearsden PS - have been included because they are viable.

“All options were discussed and proposed with parent councils, student groups, teachers, other school staff, trades unions, churches and other community groups.

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“They were further scrutinised, using a set of criteria and agreed to be put forward as part of the informal consultation that is ongoing at the moment.

“This authority built six brand new secondary schools with all the logistical challenges that brought and we bring that knowledge, experience and professionalism with us to this review of primary schools.

“We are part way through our informal consultation and nothing has yet been agreed.”