EDUCATION chiefs have been forced into a U-turn over controversial plans to send some of West Lothian’s most vulnerable primary pupils to a mainstream school.
Parents mounted a huge campaign against the shake-up that would have seen 24 children with social, emotional and behavioural needs (SEBN) relocated from Oglivie School Campus in Livingston to an annexe of the Our Lady of Lourdes RC Primary School – whose former pupils include singing superstar Susan Boyle.
As part of the blueprint that was shelved this week, children with severe and complex needs would also have been moved to new premises.
Council chiefs were forced to apologise after abandoning the public consultation four months after launching the plans when they were deemed to breach the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010. A new report on the way forward is now to be prepared for later this year.
Today, campaigners questioned why West Lothian Council’s legal department had failed to identify the flaws in the original proposals and said the entire saga had been a “huge waste of time and money”.
Claire Williams, a key campaigner against the plans, said battling the education department’s proposals had been “exhausting”.
“It has also been a complete waste of everyone’s time because it was unlawful in the first place.
“I think parents were treated unfairly at first because we were kept in the dark and it seemed like our opinions didn’t matter.”
Fellow campaigner Alison Kerr, chair of Blackburn community council, said the resources “wasted” on the failed consultation could have been invested in the country’s school estate.
She added: “It was an ill-thought out proposal and I don’t think West Lothian Council expected this cohesive response from parents and the community. I would dread to think how many sleepless nights they have caused to concerned parents.”
Angela Constance MSP, who last November demanded the project be scrapped, hailed the council announcement a “victory for common sense”.
Lawrence Fitzpatrick, executive councillor for education, apologised to parents and everyone else involved in the doomed consultation.
He said: “We understand the special sensitivities regarding the education of children with additional support needs, and regret any distress caused by this process.
“Every effort will be made to limit disruption to pupils, while we revisit the options for specialist provision that will ensure we can meet the needs of our growing population and deliver high-quality education in the future.”