Two local secondary schools could be merged under plans being considered by the new SNP administration of North Ayrshire Council.
If an application for Government funding is successful, Ardrossan Academy and Auchenharvie Academy could be closed, with pupils brought together in a new campus, possibly on land adjacent to the current Stevenston school. In addition, under the plans being considered by the Council, the James McFarlane School in Ardrossan, which caters for children with special and complex needs, could be merged with a similar facility, Haysholm School in Irvine. Were the proposals to go ahead, it is believed all of the merged schools would be accommodated at the new campus.
The controversial plans were revealed to councillors at a briefing in NAC headquarters on Monday (June 11), the same day shocked pupils were handed letters to take home to parents, which indicated the Council’s SNP Cabinet will “consider the submission of an application for extra funding at a meeting on the (sic) 19 June 2012 where officers will recommend proposals to create a new schools campus in the Three Towns area, bringing together Auchenharvie Academy and Ardrossan Academy at a location still to be identified.”
The letter, which came from the Council’s Education and Skills department, went on to explain the approach being taken by the local authority, saying, “We have built a strong track record of investment in our school estate creating high quality learning environments and making our estate more effective and efficient. This proposal would allow us to tackle under-occupancy within the two secondary schools and free up valuable resources to target towards improving educational attainment and achievement. It would also address the challenges facing Haysholm and James McFarlane schools creating a (sic) environment that is specifically designed to meet the needs of these children and young people.”
According to the Council’s plan, an application for funding must be submitted to the SNP Scottish Government by July 21, with a decision likely to be made by September or October of this year. The Council’s letter to pupils and parents states, “If funding is secured, we would require to identify a location for the new campus and seek other approvals – such as planning permission.”
The document then says, “During this period we would work hard to engage with stakeholders, including consultation with parents, pupils, partners and other interested parties.” However, parents and pupils are then informed, “The target entry date for the new campus would be the start of the new school term in August 2016.”
The demise of Ardrossan Academy, which has a history dating back to 1882, is likely to be fiercely opposed by local people. The idea of one ‘super-school’ for all non-denominational secondary pupils in the Three Towns area is also likely to see opposition on the grounds of educational attainment and the practicalities of pupils from Ardrossan making their way to Stevenston, should Auchenharvie emerge as the favoured location. Following the controversial merger of St Andrew’s Academy and St Michael’s Academy into the St Matthew’s Academy campus, pupils’ overall exam pass-marks fell significantly. Meanwhile, there are doubts over whether pupils living in Ardrossan would receive subsidised travel to a new campus at Auchenharvie: presently, pupils must live more than 3 miles from their school to qualify.