East Dunbartonshire Council has agreed to proceed with changes to its school catchment areas following an extensive public consultation.
At a meeting of the full council on Thursday, December 19, councillors unanimously agreed that children in the Craighead Primary catchment area in Milton of Campsie would be zoned to Kirkintilloch High School, in addition to the existing options of Kilsyth Academy in North Lanarkshire and St Ninian’s High School in Kirkintilloch.
Children in the catchment area of Lennoxtown Primary School will be zoned to Lenzie Academy as a a non-denominational secondary school in East Dunbartonshire; in addition to the current options of Kilsyth Academy and St Ninian’s High School.
The formal consultation process involved parents, pupils, staff and other stakeholders including the parent councils at Craighead and Lennoxtown Primary Schools and launched in September, following a period of informal consultations.
Joint Leader of the Council, Councillor Andrew Polson, said: “The Council has agreed to proceed with these proposals in response to feedback from parents and pupils in Milton of Campsie and Lennoxtown. There will be improved continuity for children in these areas as they progress from primary to secondary school and the educational benefits have been reinforced by the HM Inspectors from Education Scotland.”
After the Christmas break, Primary 7 pupils and their parents at these schools will be given information about the new arrangements which will be available in the coming school year.
Joint Leader of the Council, Councillor Vaughan Moody, added: “We would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete the online consultation or who attended the public meetings and shared their views on the proposals. This increased choice in secondary school transfer options for Craighead and Lennoxtown primary schools is a welcome development for these school communities.”
Bishopbriggs North and Campsie councillor Gary Pews said this move was the outcome of efforts dating back more than two years when he was first approached about it after being elected in 2017.
He said: “I was first approached about this issue when I attended a meeting of the Craighead Primary Parent Council ‘’Parents were frustrated that an historical agreement going back to 1996 meant that despite living and working in East Dunbartonshire, and paying their council tax here, their primary school was not officially linked to a non denominational high school in East Dunbartonshire.
‘’I took up the case and it gained momentum when the Liberal Democrat joint administration took over the running of the council in 2018.
‘’I have been pushing for last night’s decision for a long time and it gives me great satisfaction to have delivered it for my constituents.’’
Kirkintilloch North and East and Twechar councillor Susan Murray (Lib Dem, Kirkintilloch North and East and Twechar) added: ‘’This was one of the main issues on the doorsteps even as far back as 2012 when I stood in the council by-election in Milton of Campsie, so it is great news that the parents have finally got what they have long wanted.’’
Heather Crawford chairs Craighead Primary Parent Council. She said: “We as the current parent council at Craighead Primary are delighted that after many years of campaigning by ourselves and our predecessors we now have the option to choose a non-denominational secondary school education for our children within East Dunbartonshire.
“We wish to extend our thanks to all those who have campaigned for this change over the years and to Councillor Gary Pews who has supported us in this.’’
Councillor Paul Ferretti, who has worked with Councillor Pews on this issue, said: “I am delighted the Council has corrected this historic anomaly. Children from the respective villages will now be able to attend a non-denominational school in East Dunbartonshire. Residents pay East Dunbartonshire Council tax, so it is only fair that they have the choice of a non denominational school in their local authority area.
“There was a strong desire for this change in the community. This has been a good example of cross-party working, as I have worked alongside Councillor Gary Pews, who has also been vigorously pushing for this change”.
However, the news has not been welcomed in North Lanarkshire as it will mean Kilsyth Academy is expected to become the smallest secondary school in the area.
Kilsyth councillor and North Lanarkshire provost Jean Jones said she was “disappointed.”
“This will mean the severing of historic links which go back many years. I know the changes have been introduced as an additional option but it will have an impact on Kilsyth Academy, and with the financial hardship facing councils across Scotland it is difficult to justify additional school buses.”
With the current school due for replacement, Councillor Jones also stressed North Lanarkshire Council’s commitment to a new Kilsyth Academy.
“I have spoken to our chief executive and there is cross-party support for Kilsyth Academy and we are looking at our options. We expect to build a smaller but state of the art school which will be fully equipped for digital learning.”
Another Kilsyth councillor, Mark Kerr, added: “While it’s disappointing that the decision has been taken, North Lanarkshire Council and all three councillors are resolute in continuing high quality secondary education in Kilsyth.
“I firmly believe that the council should bring forward plans to redevelop the school to ensure the pupils of Kilsyth Academy get the best the council can offer going forward. No changes should affect the education of our future generations.”
A North Lanarkshire Council spokesperson confirmed: “We are very disappointed in the decision of East Dunbartonshire Council. We remain unwavering in our commitment to the future of Kilsyth Academy.”