Argyll and Bute Council’s consultation on changes to the primary school provision in Dunoon begins on Monday – 20th January, with a launch session at 7pm in Dunoon’s Queen’s Hall.
Open Q&A events with council staff involved will also be held in the Queen’s Hall during the consultation, which ends on Sunday 9th February 2014. They are:
- Friday 24th January – open event, 11.30am to 4pm
- Saturday 25th January – open event, 10am to 1pm.
The three primary schools affected are Dunoon Primary, Kirn Primary and St Mun’s Primary.
There are only two options available. Each requires a new build; with one requiring a refurbishment as well.
The options are:
- an all-in-together option with all three current schools combining with Clyde Cottage nursery and a pre-five provision in a new build shared campus – which would occupy the current site of St Mun’s school and other adjoining lands;
- the refurbishment of Dunoon Primary School as one action; with Kirn and St Mun’s being taken care of with a new build on the site on and around St Mun’s current site. This new build would also include Clyde Cottage nursery and a pre-5 provision.
The Council’s press release says that the Scottish Government would fund 50% of the capital costs of a new build [£6 million of around £12 million] for all three primary schools – but neglects to make clear in the same paragraph that the Scottish Government would similarly fund the new build in the second option. This is another instance of the council’s wearily familiar management of information to ‘guide’ people to the responses they want to see.
The government will also not now fund refurbishment – and this is a matter of heated concern.
It appears, according to local councillor Michael Breslin, that the Scottish Government had initially been willing to fund 50% of either a new build or refurbishments.
This information was withheld when local discussions on the matter began, under the then – and now again – Council Leader, Dick Walsh, prior to the May 2012 council elections.
At that stage, the only option offered to the public was an all-in-together new build on the site of Kirn school.
When Councillor Walsh and his administration lost public support in the May 2012 elections and found themselves out of office, the incoming SNP-led coalition asked Dunoon councillor, Michael Breslin, former Principal of Argyll College, to act as Lead Councillor on education.
He says: ‘ …my first request was to see the letter from the government that invited the council to bid for funds.’.
Tomorrow’s edition, 17th January, of the Dunoon Observer will publish the first page of that letter, which Councillor Breslin says shows: ‘… clearly, that refurbishing the 3 schools was always an option.’ [Ed: our emphasis - and 'always' relates to then, not now].
Mr Breslin says: ‘That appears to have been information withheld from the public by the council’; and that the joint campus was promoted by that administration on a false premise.
Parents and teaches were indeed then told that the Scottish Government would fund only a new build. For Argyll has independently confirmed that this was the case but cannot, for obvious reasons of fear in the prevailing retributive culture, name the parents and teachers concerned.
With the passage of time, the option of government funding for refurbishment appears now to be closed, leaving the two options going to consultation – only one of which – the all-in-together new build 50% funded by government – is financially viable and financially responsible.
Parents and communities wanted the refurbishment of all three schools.
A problem with refurbishment, as well as funding, is that the Scottish Government will not classify any refurbishment as a Category A school.
This means that, in the current second option under consultation from 20th January, the new build element would be 50% funded by the government; but the refurbishment of Dunoon Primary school will not receive any external funding and, although the quality of the refurbishment will be Category A class, the school will not receive that categorisation.
In the context of three primary schools in a small town, the argument of community sustainability that drives campaigns to keep rural primary schools open does not seriously obtain.
The problem here is with the culture to which Councilor Walsh helplessly adheres – the culture of manipulating the people by the withholding and distorting of information, rather than working to persuade them of the inherent sense of certain actions. This modus operandi is also a long way from being as open in the general provision of accurate information as the Nolan principle of Openness in the Code of Practice for Councillors requires.
All stalinist cultures, as this one has been shaped to be, are fundamentally unconfident and untrusting of the people. This could not be more unhealthy, socially, governmentally and democratically.