Blow for campaigners fighting to save Tanshall

Protesting against the closure
Protesting against the closure

But fight against closure goes on despite scrutiny committee recommendation

The fight to save Tanshall Primary suffered a blow this week when an influential scrutiny committee refused to recommend rejection of the proposal to close the school.

But campaigners have vowed to keep fighting - and they continue to have the full support of SNP group leader and Glenrothes councillor Peter Grant, who insisted there were “significant factual errors” in the advice given to the scrutiny committee members.

The recommendation from the scrutiny committee to the executive committee, which will decide next week whether to go ahead with the closure proposal, was that it should “take account” of various matters of concern.

That didn’t go far enough for the Tanshall parents who attended the meeting on Monday and came away feeling as though their views had been ignored.

Cllr Grant, speaking after the meeting, said: “I’m extremely disappointed that the scrutiny committee refused to recommend that the school closure proposal be dropped.

“It was obvious to everyone with any local knowledge that members of the committee had seriously misunderstood the scale of new house building that the Council’s own planners are predicting in west Glenrothes or the disastrous impact that closing the school would have on the work of CH@T (Community Help at Tanshall).

“For example, the Council said it would contribute to the costs of CH@T relocating somewhere else in Tanshall. It was only thanks to the late intervention of a CH@T representative that they were told there was nowhere else in Tanshall they can possibly move to.”

The Council’s review shows closing Tanshall would remove around 140 of the estimated 11,500 surplus places in Fife’s primary schools, and would result in one less school being under the 60 per cent occupancy target.

But campaigners have argued the closure of the school would offer little else in terms of improving Fife’s overall schools estate, while such a move would have a detrimental impact of the children affected - and would be devastating for the community.

Cllr Grant continued: “I commend the efforts of the small number of councillors who argued that there was no case for closure and that there are no educational benefits for Tanshall pupils if their school is closed. Sadly they could not persuade enough members of the committee to make a recommendation that the closure should be stopped.”

The executive committee will hold a special meeting next week to decide the school’s fate, but that’s far from likely to be the end of the process.

The executive’s decision could be subject to a “call-in” which would mean it would go back to the scrutiny committee and could then require a decision by the full Council.

‘Secret’ report on new-build option

Councillor Peter Grant has demanded the publication of ‘secret’ Fife Council documents evaluating a proposal he submitted last year suggesting the replacement of all six non-demoniational primary schools in the area with a smaller number of new schools.
He said he only found out the proposal had been analaysed and found to be not viable after asking questions at Monday’s scrutiny committee.
Cllr Grant said: “If I hadn’t raised it directly at the committee this morning we probably still wouldn’t know the documents existed. Councillors and the local community have surely got a right to see the report into this option so that we can make up our own minds as to whether or not we can make it work.
“The first thing the Council must now do is get all of this documentation into the public domain without any further delay. I’ve asked the executive director of education to do this.”
He also pointed out that there is a legal requirement for the Council to send HM Inspectors of Education a copy of any documentation relevant to a school closure proposal, and questioned whether this information had been sent to HMIE.
Councillor Bryan Poole, Fife Council education portfolio holder, said: “I’m afraid Councillor Grant’s imagination is running away with him. 
“There is no ‘secret school closure report’ and there never has been any secret school closure report. “Council officers were asked to bring forward proposals to help Fife Council move towards a more Sustainable School Estate over 12 months ago. 
“Those proposals had to be viable and deliverable. In working up those proposals officers looked at, I’m sure, several and various permutations. Amongst the permutations worked up was the possibility of replacing six primary schools in the west of Glenrothes with 3 new schools. Unfortunately the finances required to move forward with that as an option didn’t come close to stacking up.
“Following the January meeting of the Glenrothes Area Committee the chairman, Councillor Craik, asked me for information around the option as described as it had been raised as a potential option by I understand Councillor Grant at the meeting. 
“I spoke to the education service officials and was given the information as outlined above which I passed back to Councillor Craik. 
“The same information would have been available to Councillor Grant - had he asked.
“Education Service Officers did not bring this proposal forward because it was neither viable nor deliverable and nor did it meet the financial criteria/tests required to progress such schemes. 
“Indeed it would have been irresponsible for officers to bring forward proposals which they knew didn’t stack up financially.”