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Fight to save mothball-threatened school

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By Marc McLean, local democracy reporter
Dumfries and West
Fight to save mothball-threatened school

A DESPERATE attempt to have the future of Dalry Secondary discussed by all councillors was thrown out this week.

Dee and Glenkens Councillor Dougie Campbell, who has been fighting to protect the school since it was threatened with being mothballed, had lodged an emergency motion for Tuesday’s budget meeting.

The motion – which he said was previously accepted for the agenda – called for a moratorium on mothballing the school and for community impacts to be embedded within it.

In a fractious exchange with convenor Cllr Malcolm Johnstone, he described the mothballing as “aggressive” and demanded to know what process led to the motion being struck from the agenda – a move he said was “arbitrary and undemocratic”.

Councillor Johnstone, who chaired the budget meeting, told Councillor Campbell: “Much as I have a great deal of sympathy with your motion, the fact at the moment is that there is no mothballing paper coming to education (committee) in March, therefore I have deemed that this is not urgent – and I’m going to stand by that.”

Councillor Campbell underlined the “alarm” caused by the potential mothballing of Dalry Secondary.

He said the council’s education director revealed these plans at a public meeting on January 29, and claimed that since then Dalry pupils have been “hurriedly encouraged” to choose subject options at Castle Douglas High School.

Councillor Campbell said: “The decision raised significant community concern regarding the implications for education provision in the Glenkens and the wider socio-economic impact on the community.

“All ward members were present at the meeting, as was MSP Finlay Carson, who spoke out clearly against the decision and has since raised his concerns in parliament.

“There have been a number of emails sent to councillors and officers by members of the Glenkens community, including parents, parent council, community council and the community action plan steering group, raising their alarm about the implication of mothballing – and the absence of any meaningful consideration of community impact.

“However, since Friday I’ve been inundated with emails and calls from constituents, including anecdotal evidence that, despite my approved motion, pupils have been hurriedly encouraged to choose subject options at Castle Douglas High.”

In recent years, there has been a sharp decline in the Dalry Secondary school roll, with pupil numbers now standing at just 15. However, Dalry and Kells primaries currently have a combined roll of 74, which parents argue could provide a stable future for the secondary school. Many also believe the loss of all-through status and incorporation within Castle Douglas High School’s management structure restricted subject choice – resulting in Glenkens parents sending children to Castle Douglas and Kirkcudbright instead. During a consultation in December, a majority of parents – but not all – wanted Dalry to return to its former “all-through” status for nursery to S4 pupils.

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