Councillors voice opposition to merger of Peterhead schools

Councillors have voiced concerns over the proposed merger of Meethill and Dales Park schools.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 4:09 pm
Updated Thursday, 24th June 2021, 9:21 am
Councillors have spoken in support of those opposed to Meethill School being closed and merged with Dales Park.

Some members of Buchan Area Committee suggested Meethill should be retained on its current site and that given the opposition from the local community to the merger, the council should have drawn up alternative proposals.

The comments came as councillors discussed the results of a statutory consultation on the merger of the two schools and the creation a new school at the Peterhead Community Campus at Kinmundy.

The council received 554 responses to an online survey for stakeholders although 32 participants left no feedback.

Of the 522 completed surveys 45 per cent (237) of participants said they did not support Dales Park moving to the new campus while 38 per cent (196) said they were in favour of the move. The remaining 89 participants had no preference.

Regarding Meethill School, 74 per cent (388) said they did not support its move to the new campus while 21 per cent (108) said they did. The remaining 26 had no preference.

When asked about the merger of the schools at the campus, 76 per cent (395) said they did not support the move while 21 per cent did (109). The remaining three per cent (18) said they had no preference.

Concerns were raised about the distance pupils would have to travel to the new school, road safety and the loss of the schools’ identities.

Despite this, Aberdeenshire Council officers have recommended going ahead with the closure of both schools, and merging them at the new Peterhead Community Campus.

Councillor Stephen Smith, speaking at the are committee meeting, said he was “content” with the proposal to relocate Dales Park to the new campus, but did not agree with the plans for Meethill.

Cllr Smith noted that opposition to the move was down to the “leadership and culture” at the school adding that it was “at the heart of the community”.

And taking account of the 82 per cent of parents and carers opposed to the move, Cllr Smith added: “I don’t feel that we can ignore these views. Meethill School should not be part of the new campus, should not be merged with Dales Park and should retained on the existing site.”

Councillor Stephen Calder said it was clear that the overwhelmingly wish of the community was that the amalgamation and transfer of their school to the Kinmundy site shouldn’t take place.

He added: “Given there was every likelihood these proposals would be rejected by the community, why was there no plan B in place by council officers? Why has no alternative proposal been presented?

“Children benefit from having a school in their community because of the extra family support that can be provided.

“Young people being forced to walk 20 minutes to a large remote campus in the cold and dark months is not a desirable outcome. Large schools don’t always make for better schools.”

Councillor Alan Fakley commented: “Whatever actions are taken or considered in the future, the education experience of our children must remain the paramount priority.

"Wishes, views and opinions of other people are secondary to the education experience of the children of the schools affected.”

Comments made by the committee will go to the Education and Children’s Services Committee for consideration in August.