COUNCILLORS on Inverclyde’s education committee voted narrowly to close Clune Park Primary School, Port Glasgow.
The vote was split 8:8 but the closure was approved on convener Councillor Stepehn McCabe’s casting vote. Councillors opposed to the plan asked for it to be raised again at the next full meeting of the council, which will have the final decision.
Clune Park children would go to the large new Newark Primary School being built at Boglestone under the plan. Clune Park has 69 pupils at the moment. Education director Ian Fraser told the meeting: “Clune Park has a national reputation for raising attainment and is generally felt to be punching above its weight.
“The school is one of the finest I have seen in terms of behaviour management.”
But he added that there were persuasive arguments for merging it with Newark. The number of pupils is falling and families in other parts of Port Glasgow didn’t want to send their children to Clune Park.
He said it was a better option for children to attend the new building at Boglestone, where there would be expanded opportunities, than an old building at Clune Park.
Even with the Clune Park pupils, Newark Primary will be at 80% capacity when it opens later this year.
Teachers representative Tom Tracey asked if transport help would be offered to pupils from Robert Street attending extra-curricular activities at Newark. Mr Fraser said schools in areas of deprivation were given extra money for such transport arrangements.
Councillor Jim MacLeod of the Scottish National Party proposed the school stay open, be refurbished and catchment areas reviewed in an effort to boost the number of children.
The meeting heard that a decision on Clune Park had been put off by the Liberal Democrats in 2003 when they controlled the council to see what affect regeneration in the area was going to have.
At the same time they decided to merge Boglestone, Slaemuir and Highholm primaries at a new building at Boglestone with room for 594 pupils.
Labour opposed that at the time – their plan had been to build two medium-sized schools, one each in upper and lower Port Glasgow.
But with the £11million Newark school nearing completion, Labour say their old plan is no longer possible.
Councillor Alan Blair of the Lib Dems said it was still too early to say what effect redevelopment was going to have and he backed Councillor MacLeod’s proposal.
The Rev Andrew MacLean, representing the Church of Scotland at the meeting and also parish minister for the Clune Park area, said: “My fear is that if the school stays open it will end up closing itself.
"Parents who can will chose the school at Boglestone and those who can’t will have no choice. The effect on the educational experience will be devastating.”
He said he didn’t relish the position faced by the council but felt closure was the best option.
Labour councillor Terry Loughran pointed out that as few as eight primary seven pupils a year would be leaving Clune Park to attend Port Glasgow High, compared with more than 60 from Newark.
He said: “These pupils will have worked together. With placing requests, it may only be four or five children leaving Clune Park for high school. We will be doing these young people a disservice.”
Councillor McCabe said: “I believe closing Clune Park is in the best interests of the children. My over-riding concern is to ensure that the children who currently attend Clune Park, and those who would be due to go there in the future, have the best possible educational opportunities.”
He believed their opportunities would be enhanced at the new school.