Bid to move vulnerable pupils to mainstream school

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A CONTROVERSIAL blueprint to move dozens of vulnerable children into a mainstream school campus is back on the agenda just six months after council chiefs were forced to apologise for botching the proposed transfer.

Under the plans, 24 pupils with behavioural problems would relocate from Ogilvie School in Livingston to a purpose-built annexe at Our Lady Of Lourdes RC Primary in Blackburn – the former school of singing sensation Susan Boyle.

The move has sparked an outcry from parents who campaigned to shelve the plans last year amid claims they had been sidelined from the consultation process and the planning document – which had suggested autistic pupils rather than those with behavioural problems would be transferred – had been “misleading”.

Today, parents and community leaders condemned the plan’s revival which they said could have “dire repercussions” for Our Lady of Lourdes in the long term.

Alison Kerr, chair of Blackburn community council and a local parent, said she was “worried” about the transfer of pupils with behavioural problems.

She added: “Blackburn is already a socially deprived area, and we’ve had a bad reputation in the past that we’ve worked so hard to erase.

“Many of the pupils that are going to be moved here from Ogilvie have been separated from the mainstream for a reason and I think bringing them next door to Our Lady will chase some new prospective parents away, causing dire repercussions on the school register in the long-term.”

And she added: “The way this proposal reads, it sounds like the decision has already been made but the public has been given time to voice their opposition, or their support, for the changes. I sincerely hope they do so.”

The pupil transfer, which is set to take place next August, is part of a wider shake-up in West Lothian which 
has shelved previously explosive plans to move children from Pinewood School in Blackburn into Ogilvie School – a campus located around six miles away.

Claire Williams, the mother of former Pinewood student and a key campaigner against the move, said: “The council didn’t expect the response they got from parents last time, and so I wasn’t surprised to see the plans to change Pinewood had been removed from the consultation this time around.

“But there will still be a lot of opposition in the community.”

A West Lothian Council spokesman said officials had carried out robust talks to address previous concerns with three public meetings planned for next month.

Education leader Councillor Lawrence Fitzpatrick said: “With the growing demand for Additional Support Needs (ASN) services, we aim to ensure we have a robust and sustainable quality education service for pupils with ASN and their families for the future.

“We would like to hear the views of as many local residents as possible on the proposals on education provision for ASN pupils in West Lothian.”

Pupils with complex needs currently based in Polkemmet Primary School in Whitburn would relocate to the vacant Ogilvie School, if the plans go ahead.

Around 18 pupils with autism also leave Ogilvie over the next three years for new premises at St Mary’s Primary School in Polbeth.