Village schools may be merged

THREE north east Fife primary schools could close and be replaced by a single new school.

An idea currently being mooted by Fife Council’s education service could see Ceres, Craigrothie and Pitlessie primary schools all closed and a new purpose-built school created to serve the whole area.

While the suggestion is still at a very early stage, the Fife Herald understands that members of Ceres Primary School PTA will discuss the idea – put forward as a ‘notion’ by the local authority – at their meeting on Monday evening.

Parents at the other two primary schools – both of which are smaller than Ceres – are also to be asked for their views.

It is understood the idea to create a single school is intended to cut costs and combat falling school rolls.

If it was to go ahead, the new school – probably built close to Ceres – would have a roll of between 200 and 220 pupils.

Ceres currently has a roll of 123 (plus 39 in the nursery), while Pitlessie has 33 pupils and Craigrothie just 25.

While it has been stressed the idea is at its earliest possible stage, Fife Council’s area education officer, John McLaughlin, did confirm it was a possibility.

He said: “At this point we are having very early discussions, face-to-face, with parent groups in Ceres, Craigrothie and Pitlessie, to jointly explore options for school buildings in the area.”

The Fife Herald understands that a meeting has already been held involving the school head teachers, senior education officials and parent representatives about how to go about presenting the idea to parents.

If the idea was to go any further, Fife Council would have to go through a full consultation process on school closure.

It has been suggested that the earliest date for the completion of any new school would be 2014.

Cupar councillor Bryan Poole said he was disappointed that neither he nor fellow local councillors Margaret Kennedy and Roger Guy had been included in any preliminary discussions.

He said he did not believe cutting costs should come before children’s education, and warned that closing schools could also have a huge impact on their communities.

“Closing a school doesn’t just affect the pupils and staff – it can rip the heart out of a whole village,” he said.

“These things have to be given proper consideration and parents deserve to be fully consulted.”

A two classroom extension is due to be built at the existing Ceres Primary School, and Councillor Poole said that during discussions on that he had asked if it might not be cheaper to build a new school, but had been told that was not a possibility.

“I would have to be convinced that this is the best options for all pupils and all communities concerned,” he said.