PLANS to re-home school support services in the Wee County ahead of August was agreed as a matter of urgency last week.

At a special meeting of Clackmannanshire Council last Friday, July 10, elected representatives voted to refurbish the former St Bernadette's building in Tullibody.

The move will allow the local authority to temporarily re-home both its secondary and primary school support services.

Both are available for children and young people with additional support needs and while there is a focus on keeping learners on a mainstream setting, support is also offered on the services' premises.

The secondary support service requires a temporary home due to the condition of its usual building at Alloa's Bedford Place.

The primary support service is normally located at Park Primary and Nursery just a short walk away.

However, plans to expand and create additional space for extra classes there have been hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

This means the council is looking to convert the areas used by the support service to accommodate two additional P1 classes and so the primary support service is required to move as well.

At the meeting last week, held virtually, council officers confirmed the re-homing of the services and the subsequent refurbishment were essential to ensure the local authority continues to meet its statutory duty in providing education.

When asked by council leader Councillor Ellen Forson what would happen if elected members did not agree, education chiefs said: "If we are unable to provide statutory provision for all the children in Clackmannanshire, I would have to alert the Scottish Government that we are unable to do that."

Council documents for the day highlighted the remedial works for the building at Bedford Place could be in excess of £800,000.

The total cost of refurbishment works for the move to the former St Bernadette's is estimated to be just under £500,000.

Papers for the meeting did not specify where this money would come from, prompting a question from Labour leader Cllr Dave Clark.

He was particularly concerned that the local authority might dip into its reserves.

Education chiefs told the chamber that more work was required to pull together a detailed summary on the effects of the pandemic on all budgets.

Proposing the paper, Cllr Craig Holden urged councillors to support the proposals since "if we do not support these proposals we will not be able to meet our statutory obligations to provide education for our children".

During the debate, Cllr Clark branded the situation a "crisis within a crisis" and joined others in commending staff for working around the clock to resolve it.

He said: "We are having to almost give a blank cheque, we need to do it, but without understanding where the money is coming from."

The Labour leader added:"I am hugely concerned where we are in the bigger picture of things, if we are already having to access our reserves – this actually compounds our dilemma."