FURIOUS parents have hit out after it emerged Clackmannanshire Council were considering closing two primary schools.

In a letter obtained by the Advertiser, the council told parents that closing Fishcross Primary and Coalsnaughton Primary was an option in the 2019/2020 budget engagement.

A budget booklet is due to be released shortly which will outline the proposals.

Parents have hit out at the proposals however, with some calling it a “disgrace”. Others have cited the detrimental effect the change would have on the education of pupils given teachers would have far less contact time if they were moved into neighbouring schools.

Colin Smith posted on Facebook, saying it could potentially destroy the village and offered to start a petition.

He said: “Without going off on a major rant, in my opinion, this is a disgrace. The heart of my wee village which has little or no amenities left will be gone forever. I shall be more than happy to start a petition to save our school if there is enough interest to do so in the future.

Lisa Docherty wrote on social media: “Smaller class sizes, more time for teachers to support all the kids. Talks of saving money? If both schools close, kids will need to travel to other local schools, nearest to Coalsnaughton being almost 2 miles. Fishcross pupils will also have to travel, are the kids going to be provided transport?

“Also increasing already bigger class sizes at the other schools, therefore putting yet more pressure on teachers and support staff. Kids who need additional support being missed will slip through the system.

“Closing schools isn't going to help with budget cuts, I'm sure the public can give the council plenty of other ways to save money.”

The budget engagement booklet released by the council states that over the last eight years, savings of over £43m have been made, although a further £11m is required.

It goes on to say that “it is now almost impossible to find savings which will not impact on individuals and communities”.

A spokesperson for the Fishcross Parents Group added: "The parents, children of Fishcross Primary and the Fishcross community are totally shocked and outraged regarding the council proposal to close our school.

"Fishcross Primary has amazing teachers that go out of their way to help and support our children and families. Parents past and present will I'm sure share stories of support.

"Many parents have concerns that a closure will result in a move to a much larger school and overcrowded classes which results in the teachers having less time to get to know our kids and less support to all the children.

"We have many questions regarding the closure and future plans. We have a meeting with Anne Pearson Chief Education Officer to discuss these issues prior to us holding our own community meeting on Wednesday, January 16.

"We are a small school almost at maximum capacity and we will do everything to keep our school open."

One other proposed cut is to reduce the hours secondary pupils are in schools, from the current 27.5 hours a week to 25, which the council estimates would save them around £150k a year.

A consultation period is set to take place between May and December of this year in which parents will be able to air their views.

Dave Clark of Clacks Labour told the Advertiser: “The closure of schools is a last resort when you have made all the cuts that you can.

“I have a great deal of sympathy for the SNP administration because these cuts are Keith Brown's; not theirs.”

Keith Brown MSP spoke of his concern, saying: “I am concerned at reports that council officers have included options for consideration by Clackmannanshire Council in its budget-setting process which would close primary schools in Coalsnaughton and Fishcross.

“Clearly, further information is necessary as a matter of urgency so that the many concerned parents contacting my office can fully understand what is being proposed as budget options, and I have written to the Chief Executive of Clackmannanshire Council seeking such further information.

“I will also be seeking assurances from the SNP Administration, and the opposition Labour and Tory groups, that they intend to reject these officer proposals in order that parents can be reassured over the future of these schools.”

Luke Graham MP echoed those thoughts while adding that Westminster have provided more money of late.

He said: "Despite these increases from Westminster we continually see the SNP administration in Edinburgh And at Kilncraigs slashing away at education. In spite of Nicola Sturgeon claiming education is her ‘Number One priority’.

"This is clearly not the case, with Scottish education now falling behind Northern Ireland & England in terms of performance, and the SNP so embarrassed that they have removed us from international league tables.

"In Clackmannanshire we have some fantastic teachers and students bursting with potential, but the SNP’s cuts are starting to bite in the county. The cuts are here, real and closing our schools.”

Councillor Graham Lindsay, the education spokesman, said: "To inform the process of budget setting by councillors, a budget engagement exercise commenced on 9th January 2019.

"We would stress that this process is based on officer proposals and no decisions have been made, and none will be taken by councillors, until after the engagement exercise is complete.

"The proposals put forward by officers in respect of both Fishcross and Coalsnaughton are part of an overarching development and improvement strategy for the school estate.

"There has to be a statutory consultation before any decisions are made, based on the best educational outcomes for our children and young people across the whole of Clackmannanshire.

"The Council spends about 40% of its annual budget on education, therefore this service cannot be excluded from the budget engagement process. 

"We are acutely aware that some of these officer proposals, particularly in relation to schools, will be of concern to many people.

"As an Administration, we will be fully committed to an engagement and listening exercise to ensure we fully understand the views of the Clackmannanshire community."

Clackmannanshire Council responded by saying: “No decisions have yet been taken. These are officer options which will be part of budget consultation, which will then inform the decision making of councillors at the budget meeting.

“If these options are agreed, they will then move to a statutory consultation process before any final decisions are taken.”