Save Abronhill High School campaign
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Welcome

Welcome to Cumbernauld Media's Save Abronhill High School campaign' page; you can use this page to find out information about the campaign, including what they are doing to prevent the closure of Abronhill High School as part of its rationalisation with Cumbernauld High School. 



Background 

In 2012 North Lanarkshire Council began consulting into proposals for the rationalisation of Abronhill High and Cumbernauld High Schools. The authority said a rationalisation would benefit education, parents, pupils and staff. However, the proposals sparked one of the largest community-led campaigns Cumbernauld has ever seen, in the launch of the Save Abronhill High School Working Group, who helped to steer the public Save Abronhill High School campaign. What would become of the campaign would be an arduous battle with North Lanarkshire Council to prove that Abronhill High School should remain open.

The campaigns organised a number of marches through Abronhill, and produced a number of documents to counter the points put forward by the authority, with concern for the proposals so high that Abronhill Community Facility was over-occupied when North Lanarkshire Council held a consultation meeting at it, earlier this year. 

When the consultation closed North Lanarkshire Council announced that they had received over 1,600 individual responses to their 'Proposed Rationalisation of Abronhill High School and Cumbernauld High School'; the council noted this as being one of the largest yet, with their consultation report saying, "there was overwhelming support against the proposal and, in particular, to retain the existing Abronhill High School.." adding: "...many respondents did recognise the challenge facing 
the council"

The end result of consultation

Despite having an "overwhelming" number of people against the proposal to close Abronhill High School, only one change was made to the final recommendations, which were put before the council's Learning and Leisure Services committee, in February, this year.

In the post-consultation report North Lanarkshire Council changed the year which Abronhill High School would close as part of any rationalisation from August 2013 to August 2014, following the major concern that the timing of the proposal was too quick and crammed together. No other recommendations were changed.

The report recommended: 
  1. to approve that, 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; 
  2. to approve that, 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  
  3. to note that, 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

From proposal to reality

At 10am on Wednesday 6th February 2013, North Lanarkshire Council's Learning and Leisure Services committee met and voted to close Abronhill High School in August 2014 and move the school's staff and students to Cumbernauld High School. 

Following the committee's meeting, North Lanarkshire Council met in full at 4pm, on the same day, in a "special" meeting which would serve to ratify the decision taken by the Learning and Leisure Services committee, earlier that day.

The SNP opposition and independent councillors stood against the proposals; Labour's councillors approved the recommendations. They approved the recommendations that: 

(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.

From Motherwell to Edinburgh

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 was the date which North Lanarkshire Council approved the decision to rationalise Abronhill High with Cumbernauld High School. In line with the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010, North Lanarkshire Council had to inform the Scottish Government of their decision, to allow representations to be made to Ministers, for and against the proposals.

In line with the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010, individuals had a three week period to make representations to the Scottish Government; to request a call-in of the council's proposals. People had until February 26th, 2013 to make representation to the Ministers.

After February 26th, 2013, the Scottish Government had a three-week period to come to a decision about whether or not they would call-in the authority's proposals. The Scottish Government reported back on March 19th, 2013 that they would call-in North Lanarkshire Council's proposals to close Abronhill High School and merge it with Cumbernauld High School.

Called in for inspection

After the Scottish Government announced their intention to call-in North Lanarkshire Council's decision, Ministers had an unlimited amount of time within which they could investigate and report back on the proposals, when they would have three options; reject the council's proposals outright, agree to the proposals, or thirdly, the Government agree to the proposals with conditions attached - these conditions can be anything from the arrangements of transport to the planning of the new build.

The verdict was announced, by the Scottish Government, on Friday, June 28th, 2013; they were backing the proposals, with a number of conditions attached. 

Conditional approval announced

On Friday, June 28th, 2013, the Scottish Government announced that they were backing North Lanarkshire Council's plans to rationalise Abronhill High School and Cumbernauld High School. 

The Scottish Government's letter was posted to the council's Learning and Leisure Services department on June 27th, 2013, and follows a decision by North Lanarkshire Council, on February 6th, 2013, that both schools should be rationalised, next year, with a new school to be built at the current Cumbernauld High School premises, in the coming years. 

As part of their approval, the Scottish Government attached a number of conditions to their approval of the closure of Abronhill High School. These were: 
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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;
  • 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.

Controversy follows approval

When the Scottish Government announced their decision to conditionally approve North Lanarkshire Council's proposals, the Save Abronhill High School campaign cried foul. 

The campaign demanded a number of Freedom of Information requests, from all sides - including North Lanarkshire Council, the Scottish Government and Education Scotland, after the Scottish education inspectorate changed their pre-approval/ consultation report from seeing a possible "detrimental impact" on the education of pupils at both schools, to seeing a clear "immediate benefit" on education as a result of the merger. 

The campaign claimed a number of holes had appeared, mainly that North Lanarkshire Council had not fully addressed all concerns, as they are required to do, in their post-consultation report, by the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010. The Save Abronhill High School campaign said the council had failed "morally", and that the Scottish Government were ignoring key arguments and concerns put forward by the campaign. 

Where are they now; what's the future?

The Save Abronhill High School campaign continues to hold a massive online presence, with the campaign determined to get answers back from all of their Freedom of Information requests, so the full picture can be assessed. 

The campaign had previously approached the Govan Law Centre's Education Law Unit for legal advice, with legal action one of the possible avenues which the campaigners could utilise, at a high cost. 

At the moment, though, the campaigners remain "determined" to "fight the proposals to kill Abronhill", with some simply wanting more information about how the merger will take place.

North Lanarkshire Council will be proceeding with the merger, in 2014, with pupils at Abronhill High School moving to Cumbernauld High School, next August, with a number of 'integration' and 'social' activities said to be planned before the merger, to enable an easier and smoother transition for all pupils, at both schools. 

Further reading

North Lanarkshire Council's proposal report, pre-consultation. Download here.
North Lanarkshire Council's community consultation meeting hand outs. Download here.
Save Abronhill High School's petition sheets. Download here. 
A Formal Community Response and Alternative Proposals, by Save Abronhill High School campaign. Download here.
Response to council consultation, for the community, by the Save AHS Working Group. Download here.
Viable Alternative Proposals, on behalf of Abronhill, by the Save AHS Working Group. Download here.
Objection and viable alternative proposals, by Whitelees Primary School Parent Council. Download here.
Response to council response, by Abronhill Primary School & Nursery Class. Download here.
Council minutes from Abronhill HS consultation meeting, October 24th 2012. Download here.
Council minutes from Cumbernauld HS consultation meeting, October 25th 2012. Download here.
North Lanarkshire Council's post-consultation report. Download here.
Save Abronhill High School Community Meeting notes and advice for call-in requests, February 2013. Download here.
Council publish Learning & Leisure Services 2013/14 Service Plan. Download here.
Abronhill to Cumbernauld HS Walking Route Assessment, by council, from F.O.I. Download here.
Save Abronhill High School campaign F.O.I. from Police on walking route safety. Download here.
Letter template for Scottish Government. Download here.
Bullet point list of grounds for a call-in. Download here.
Scottish Government call-in notice. Download here.
Scottish Government final decision notice. Download here.
Scottish Government respond to walking route safety concerns. Download here.
Save Abronhill High School campaign release Education Scotland F.O.I results. Download here.
Save Abronhill HS Working Group's public meeting advice sheet on legal actions. Download here.

Legal battle brews

LEGAL ACTION WAS ABANDONED AS OF DECEMBER 18TH 2013.

The Save Abronhill High School campaign now look all set to take legal action, against the plans to merge Abronhill High with Cumbernauld High School; specifically, the closure of Abronhill High School, as part of the rationalisation.

The campaign have confirmed that they are seeking to raise approximately £6,000, with nearly half of this already raised.

Following a public meeting on September 14th, 2013, the group confirmed – by a verbal ballot of those who turned out to the public meeting – that action should be sought against North Lanarkshire Council, in a bid to see Abronhill High’s closure averted.

The group have confirmed that they have the relevant legal advice and a lawyer who’s willing to work pro-bono, for the group. 

Possible legal rulings

LEGAL ACTION WAS ABANDONED AS OF DECEMBER 18TH 2013.

If action is finally taken, a number of outcomes are plausible, from legal action. These include the verdict that there is no case to answer; or, secondly, that the council are the winning party, meaning no change the plans; and finally, the Save Abronhill High School campaign wins. In this case, the authority will have its plans binned by the courts, with the council then able to re-start the consultation progress, and start from the beginning. 

How the public can help

LEGAL ACTION WAS ABANDONED AS OF DECEMBER 18TH 2013, THE FOLLOWING CAN NO LONGER BE DONE.

To take these plans forward, the Save Abronhill High School campaign have appealed for people to do either one, or both, of the following: donate to help fund legal costs, or sign up to become a petitioner.

Become a petitionerA petitioner is, in essence, an individual (or group of individuals) that effectively put their names forward in bringing the case to court. 

To be a petitioner, a number of criteria must firstly be met. These are that the person:
  • receives no personal gain (apart from school remaining open) - ie shop owner who would gain financially,
  • has been involved in the community campaign throughout,
  • has no substantial savings or very high income,
  • is robust and has strong stomach to proceed.
As part of signing up, willing individuals will be required to submit their name, address and contact details on one form and household finances on a separate form in a sealed envelope would be submitted to lawyer for filtering of suitable petitioners.  
Once all petitioners are agreed, the petition would be lodged to the Court and a Protective Expenses Order submitted.

A Protective Expenses Order would be considered approximately within four weeks of lodging the petition, with the Order a safeguard for the petitioners, in the instance that they are found liable, and sued by North Lanarkshire Council.

The Save Abronhill High School campaign’s lawyer will seek to set the highest amount of liable costs to £5,000, meaning that the more people, the less amount is owed.

For instance, one petitioner – if held liable – would owe £5,000, although one-hundred petitioners could be liable for £50. 

The Save Abronhill High School campaign is defiant, however; appealing for immediate donations to help cover the £6,000 costs, protecting the petitioners and allowing the case to be brought forward.

As part of the application for the Order, a number of criteria is required to be satisfied before a court. The criteria demands that:
  • the issues raised are of general public importance,
  • the public interest requires that those issues should be resolved,
  • the applicant (petitioners) has no private interest in the outcome of the case,
  • with regard to the financial resources of the applicant and the respondent (NLC) and to the amount of costs that are likely to be involved, it is fair and just to make the order,
  • if the order is not made, the applicant will probably discontinue the proceedings and will be acting reasonably in doing so.

Costs of any legal action

LEGAL ACTION WAS ABANDONED AS OF DECEMBER 18TH 2013.

The Save Abronhill High School Working Group say that the immediate costs of legal actions could be about £400, in the instance when the petition is lodged, with total court costs predicted to be below £1,000. Then, if a Protective Expenses Order application were successful, then a liability cost cap of around £5,000 would be sought, although the campaign will seek to fundraise in order to ensure that the petitioners are protected.

If the Protective Expenses Order is not granted, however, then the risks to the petitioners would be considerable.  This would potentially cost between £60,000 and £100,000. In this instance, the case would be abandoned, by the Save Abronhill High School campaign. 

In short, between £6,000 and £10,000 will need to be raised, in order to cover any liabilities to the campaign’s petitioners. Details on how to donate are included below.

Donate to fund the battle purse

LEGAL ACTION WAS ABANDONED AS OF DECEMBER 18TH 2013, THE FOLLOWING CAN NO LONGER BE DONE.

The campaign will have an online donation page available, details of which will be posted here – on Cumbernauld Media – when they become available.

However, in the meantime, people who wish to donate have a number of options.

In person: Collection tins will be made available at Abronhill Community Facility and the housing office, in Abronhill Shopping Centre.
Bank transfer: People wishing to donate through a bank transfer can request the bank details, though private Facebook messaging. Visit the Working Group’s Facebook page, and use the ‘Message’ button to request the details. The Facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Save-Abronhill-High-School-working-group/105012062987835
Cheques: Cheques can be made out to ‘Abronhill Regeneration Forum’ and either handed in at their office, the housing office, or posted to the Forum, here:
Abronhill Community Centre
Save Abronhill High School 
2 Larch Rd, 
Abronhill
Cumbernauld,
G67 3AZ 
Please don’t send money in the post. 

Please note: All of the money raised during fundraising activities are deposited in the Regeneration Forum’s bank account, with any money left over after legal action remaining with the Forum, as a donation, to be spent on the community, as they see fit.

Campaign events

LEGAL ACTION WAS ABANDONED AS OF DECEMBER 18TH 2013.

In a bid to raise the necessary funds for legal action, the Save Abronhill High School Working Group have appealed to the public to organise fundraisers, to help fill up the legal action piggy bank. 

The Group say the events need not be big; perhaps a coffee morning, at home or at work, sponsored events, such as silences or walks, or even larger scale events – such as discos – as long as people are willing to organise the events.

When events are created, Cumbernauld Media will post their details right here, and allow you to buy tickets – where appropriate and necessary. So, keep checking this page, for the latest updates.

NO EVENTS SCHEDULED. IF YOU ARE PLANNING ONE, E-MAIL US, TO LET US KNOW.

Legal bid abandoned

The Save Abronhill High School campaign announced on Wednesday 18th December 2013 that they were abandoning legal action. 

A spokesperson for the campaign said: "I can confirm that the Save Abronhill High School campaign will no longer seek legal action against North Lanarkshire Council, and their plans to close Abronhill High School, next summer.

"Our campaign has demonstrated that community activism and pride is still very much alive in Abronhill, and that support has helped to expose the rotten, backward political structure of North Lanarkshire Council, and the inability of Cumbernauld’s Labour councillors to side with local residents instead of the Labour party whip. Abronhill, Kildrum and Village councillor Stephen Grant and Labour MP Gregg McClymont, whose silence throughout our campaign was deafening..

"Throughout the campaign we have argued that the closure of Abronhill High School will not raise the savings which the council expect. Instead, the school's closure will harm the community, economy and facilities in Abronhill - we stand by these remarks, and continue to oppose the closure of Abronhill High School.

“Our decision not to proceed with legal action comes after prolonged consultation with our lawyer and advice from QC. It is not a sign that we retract previous statements but we have sought to be realistic. It is now time to work towards a successful transition to 'Cumbernauld Academy' and secure the best possible future for all young people attending Abronhill High School.

"Concerns remain about the merger and the impact of this loss to our community but everyone that took part in this long, arduous battle to save Abronhill High School should congratulate themselves. We would especially like to thank SNP councillors Paddy Hogg, Liz Irvine and Tom Johnston, as well as Cumbernauld and Kilsyth MSP, Jamie Hepburn.

“In the end, we raised an astonishing £5,500, and after we have paid off immediate costs, the remaining money will be donated to the Abronhill Regeneration Forum for use in the community.”