Gartsherrie Primary protest
PUPILS and parents illuminated their campaign to save Gartsherrie Primary by demonstrating at the switch-on of the Christmas lights in Coatbridge.
More than 200 youngsters and adults battling to prevent the school’s proposed closure marched to the town centre last Friday.
They went on to deliver thousands of objection letters to North Lanarkshire Council, taking the total submitted to more than 5000 in just four weeks.
Around 250 community members then attended a standing-room-only public meeting with education officials in the school on Monday evening.
The festive lights protest stopped traffic in Coatbridge as the school community took their battle to the streets, drawing support from passers-by and praise from police for its conduct.
Mum Kay Rowat said: “We were really delighted by the turnout – we went through the Main Street just as they were doing the countdown, and delivered letters to Kildonan Street.
“The support we’ve received has been amazing. I always thought there would be a lot of backing for the school as it’s very well respected, but so many people have become involved and this issue has really brought the whole community together.”
Parents used Monday’s meeting to contest the age and accuracy of the council’s stance on the school’s condition and roll, and to question the suggested “educational benefits” and transport issues surrounding the proposed move to Townhead or Greenhill Primaries.
Most felt that the 90-minute consultation left them with “more questions than answers” – but council officials claimed they had “responded to all the issues raised”.
Campaigner and mum Fiona Dingwall said: “They couldn’t answer our questions and contradicted themselves – all they could say in the end was that it’s down to money.
“The report they’re using on the state of the school is eight years old – you wouldn’t use a survey of that age if you were buying a house, and since it was done we’ve had a new roof, playground, car park, carpets, heating and paintwork. This school is up to standard.
“I also asked for a breakdown of where they think savings will come from, because they say they’ll save £186,000 on staff but will be redeploying them elsewhere, and they would have to maintain and secure a closed school.
“We had so many questions, but we’re no further forward in having them answered and have asked for another meeting with Murdo McIver, the head of education, who couldn’t attend as he was at a similar consultation in Cumbernauld.”
Fellow mum and PTA member Audrey McFarlane added: “Lots of people made good points, but we didn’t have time to get many of them across and lots still wanted to ask questions.
“I think the strength of feeling was quite a shock to the education department; the meeting was very controlled but we just want our voices to be heard.”
Education officer Ron Dufour described the meeting as “very positive”, saying: “It was very well attended, and I was able to respond to all the issues raised by parents and carers who aired their views.
“It’s clear that those associated with Gartsherrie Primary are passionate about their school and their children’s education.”