The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near; the fools have got their way on Abronhill high closure, temporarily

Written by Scott Campbell. Scott Campbell
Published at 19:57 on 2 July 2013.
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SCHOOLS across North Lanarkshire broke up for summer on Thursday, June 27th, 2013, and for the pupils at two different high schools in Cumbernauld the day was more than a nail-biter. 

Pupils at Abronhill high and Cumbernauld high were in limbo as to what the future of both schools would be, as they entered the summer holidays. However, in Coatbridge, the decision was known. 

At some point during Thursday, Scottish Government officials had rang North Lanarkshire Council’s Learning and Leisure Services department, in Coatbridge – their message? The rationalisation of Abronhill High School and Cumbernauld High will be approved, subject to a number of conditions. 

The public had to wait until 10am, on Friday morning to find out that the Scottish Government backed North Lanarkshire Council’s proposals – and the decision has brought the petition of ‘No confidence in North Lanarkshire Council’ back to life, as well as rumours of corruption and dissent at the Scottish Government’s rather plush Victoria Quay HQ.

The Government’s announcement rocked the community of Abronhill after almost one year of campaigners attempting to argue against the closure of Abronhill High School, and has led some people to smell a rat in the Government’s process.

Built in 1978, Abronhill High is a modern, non-denominational comprehensive secondary school in the centre of Abronhill, a satellite community of the new town of Cumbernauld. The school formed selected backdrops to the Scottish cult film, Gregory’s Girl, in 1981.

The conditions attached to the rationalisation’s approval are:

  1. Providing the Scottish Government and the Parent Councils of all of the schools affected by this proposal, confirmation that funding has been secured for the new school along with a detailed timetable for development and construction of the new school.
  2. Requesting Police Scotland to undertake a safety assessment of all the proposed walking routes to Cumbernauld High School and to make a report of its findings publicly available along with any recommendations. A copy of the report will be sent to North Lanarkshire Council and the Parent Councils of each of the schools affected by this proposal and the Scottish Ministers.
  3. Publishing, within three months of receipt of the Police report, and following discussion between the Police, council, parent councils and head teachers, its response to the report setting out how it intends to implement the recommendations made. This shall include details of what work requires to be done and when this will be carried out. A copy of the council's response will be sent to the Police and copied to the Parent Councils of all of the schools affected and the Scottish Ministers.
  4. Completing all improvement works recommended by the Police recommendations before the first day of term of the new amalgamated school (for the start of academic year 2014/15). The council shall provide the parent councils and the Scottish Ministers with regular progress reports on delivering the improvement work required;
  5. Undertaking a full assessment of the safety and capacity of bus stances at Cumbernauld High School which are used by pupils for both boarding and alighting and make any necessary arrangements to ensure the stances are capable of accommodating safely the increased numbers of pupils likely to be using them following the merger of the two schools. These improvements are to be in place for the start of the new school year in 2014.

The Government’s conditional approval of the council’s proposals follows a call-in of the council’s proposals on March 18th, 2013, which shadowed a decision by the Learning and Leisure Services committee of North Lanarkshire Council, on February 6th, 2013 that the two schools should be rationalised, in line with three key recommendations, which were:

(i) at the end of school session 2013/14, the provision of education at Abronhill High School and Cumbernauld High School be discontinued and a new school be established and that all pupils currently attending both the current Abronhill and Cumbernauld High Schools will be provided with education at the existing Cumbernauld High School premises;
(ii) from the start of school session 2014/15 all primary school pupils who under the present arrangements would have transferred to Abronhill and Cumbernauld High Schools will be provided with secondary education at the existing Cumbernauld High School premises; and
(iii) as an early priority in the next phase of the Schools & Centres 21 Programme, a new build school will be constructed to replace the amalgamated schools on the existing Cumbernauld High School site.

Now, I have been in meetings with the people behind the Save Abronhill High School campaign; they are smart, articulate individuals who were never going to let the council implement these proposals without a fight. 

Friday’s announcement follows months of battling; which has seen legal threats thrown, pavements marched on and the media spooling over the story of how the future of the ‘Gregory’s Girl school’ was in doubt. The fact is that people were constantly engaged; I went to public meetings organised by the campaign and seen halls packed to the roof, all because people wanted to protect education – whether or not they have pupils currently at the school. 

In my view, the Save Abronhill High School campaign is time-less; and is perhaps one of the biggest ever community-led campaigns; a campaign which almost took the record for the highest number of call-in requests to the Scottish Government, who when they called in the council’s rationalisation proposals were dismissed as being ‘dictatorial’, by Jim Logue, Convener of Learning and Leisure Services.

The announcement is a sad one, but I know that the campaigners will – and are – still trying to fight for Abronhill high school; they feel let down by Education Scotland, betrayed by the Scottish Government and discussed that cuts have cost them their local high school.

Perhaps a post by Lynn Hutcheson in the campaign’s Facebook page sums up the feelings of Abronhill campaigners best; “We won our battle against NLC and NLC have won their battle with the Scottish Government! NOBODY HAS BEATEN US YET!! THE WAR IS NOT OVER!!” 

Proverbs 10:14, English Standard Version (ESV): “The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.” North Lanarkshire Council and the Scottish Government are the fouls; campaigners the wise – may the fight continue; for community; for democracy; for education.