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Council plans to mothball further north-east schools

By David Porter

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It was confirmed this week that Aberdeenshire Council is considering the "mothballing" of both Fisherford and Easterfield schools after projected school rolls for each showed that both were set to have less than 10 pupils.

Figures show that the school roll from August for Fisherford is just three pupils, while at nearby Easterfield it will be eight.

A spokesperson from Aberdeenshire Council said: "Mothballing a school gives the opportunity for it to re-open should circumstances change.

"We know that the educational and social benefits of having a sizeable group of peers to interact with are extensive.

"Sometimes this isn't possible when a school roll falls below 10, particularly if the remaining pupils are split across year groups, so mothballing is an interim arrangement in the best interest of young people."

They continued: "The decision to mothball a school is never an easy one.

"It is an option delegated to Aberdeenshire Council's director of education and children's services in order to support the best educational and social outcomes for children and young people and will be reviewed annually.

"Extensive engagement with local communities will continue throughout this time.

"Any permanent change would require the Statutory (Consultation) (Schools) Act 2010 to be followed, including surveying and discussing options with local communities, carrying out extensive analysis of school and community facilities within a local area and presentation of this to elected members for consideration and approval."

If plans are taken forward, they would join a growing list of school sites which have been removed from active teaching including Strachan and Longhaven as well as Gartly Primary where a decision is still awaited on the fate of the building following a recent community consultation in the wake of fuel contamination remedial costs being revealed.

Elsewhere in Aberdeenshire, several other rural schools have also seen numbers drop below a dozen pupils.

Figures presented to the education committee last month as part of a review of out of zone placement requests show that figures recorded in April show that Clatt, Kineff, Largue and Lumsden all had less than a dozen pupils attending with others including Cairnie, Crathie, King Edward, Strathdon and Tullynessle all having under 20 pupils.

Officers have not as yet indicated a date for the start of the consultation.

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