Catholic Church leaders have raised concerns over plans to close a second Catholic primary school in Midlothian in a year as part of budget cuts, writes Marie Sharp in the Southern Reporter.
Midlothian Council has published a wide range of proposals to help it bridge a £14million budget gap for the coming year including closing St Matthews Primary School, in Rosewell, which has 51 pupils.
Anne-Theresa Lawrie appeared on behalf of the Archdiocese and quoted the late South African leader Nelson Mandela as a reminder to councillors about the importance of education.
On behalf of the Archdiocese we oppose this closure and the impact it would have on the community and the education for young people
She said: “Nelson Mandela said education is the most powerful weapon with which we can change the world. It has an impact on the lives of vulnerable young people and affects their life chances.”
Urging councillors to reconsider the inclusion of the school in the savings plan, she said: “We are very concerned this proposal is on the table. The Catholic estate has been reviewed and as a result of that St Margarets Primary School, in Loanhead, was closed.
“On behalf of the Archdiocese we oppose this closure and the impact it would have on the community and the education for young people.”
St Margarets Primary School was told it was closing last February after education chiefs said it did not have a single pupil on its rolls.
They denied claims from some parents that they were discouraged from registering their children at the school or told they could not in a bid to “run down” the school.
At the meeting Conservative group leader Councillor Peter Smaill described the inclusion of the school in the savings proposals as “problematic” as he questioned the legality of such a move.
He told the committee: “It is by law the case that schools cannot be closed on financial grounds and I will be pursuing that in the weeks ahead.”
The savings plan says of the proposed closure “The proposal is to seek council approval to undertake a statutory consultation on the closure of St Matthew’s RC PS.
“There is currently 51 children over three classes attending the school.”
It adds as well as a saving of £290,000 over the next two years “there may be further benefits in terms of educational outcomes as pupils would be able to experience a broader range of learning experiences, in which they could interact with a larger group of peers at their age and stage.”
The savings proposals have been put out for public consultation before decisions are made.