THE official response to the public consultation on the future of Abronhill High School is now available to the public.
No direct recommendations are made in the 80-page document, but the clock is now ticking till February 6, when councillors will vote on the proposed merger.
North Lanarkshire Council described the level of reaction as unprecedented, with over 1,600 written responses from elected representatives, interest groups and individuals. These were overwhelmingly against the proposal to merge Abronhill High with Cumbernauld High School, with Abronhill High to be demolished and both schools to be temporarily housed at Cumbernauld High School until a new combined campus is built on the latter site. The council says this will save around £1m per year in running costs and also improve the standard of education at both schools, which are currently well under their maximum capacity.
Two petitions were also submitted. One, compiled by Abronhill residents opposed to the proposals carried 5,853 signatures while the other, with 60 signatures, was entitled “I won’t send my child to Cumbernauld High School if Abronhill High School is closed”.
The report notes: “The level of response was considerable and unprecedented in volume. In addition the breadth and depth of the responses was considerable.”
Issues were raised in seven categories: financial, the condition of the school buildings, loss of local school and impact on the community, issues regarding the quality of educational provision, timescale, walking routes and transitional arrangements.
Area Labour councillor Stephen Grant said: “I raised concerns with North Lanarkshire Council regarding the timescale of these proposals. I have consistently called for any merger to be delayed to allow adequate time for all pupils and staff to adjust to any change.
“I also understand the concerns parents have regarding the safety of children walking to school. North Lanarkshire Council have strict guidelines on walking routes and continue to provide free transport where a safe route is not available. I will be pressing the council to provide appropriate levels of transport.”
A spokesman for the Save Abronhill High School Working Group said that the group was “extremely disappointed and frustrated” by the lack of recommendations in the report, despite previous assurances from council officials.
The spokesman added: “This is about a community’s future and the important role the high school, the pupils and families play in the heart of the community. It wholly undermines the Council’s own position and credibility on the plans to close the school.”
A spokesman for North Lanarkshire Council said: “A consultation report on the proposed rationalisation of Abronhill High School and Cumbernauld High School has been published.
“The two main reasons for the proposal are that both schools are significantly under occupied and the rationalisation will bring savings to allow a new school to be built.
“Copies of the report are available from both schools, local libraries, from the service’s headquarters in Kildonan Street Coatbridge, and on the council’s website www.northlanarkshire.gov.uk
“The level of response was considerable and unprecedented in volume.
“It is important to note that the report, at this stage, makes no recommendations. However, in line with relevant legislation, it does detail: all of the main points raised; a response from the service to these issues; an assessment of alternative proposals; and a statement from Education Scotland along with the service’s response.
“A report with recommendations on the proposals will be considered by councillors at a meeting of the Learning and Leisure Services committee on Tuesday, February 6, 2013.”