Recommendations to approve controversial proposals to remove Invergowrie Primary School from the Harris Academy catchment area have been branded “wrong” by Perth councillors.
A consultation report published today by Dundee City Council (DCC) has recommended plans for Invergowrie Primary to be removed as an associate school of Harris.
If approved, the changes will be implemented from August 2022 – a year later than the date originally proposed. A final decision will be made by DCC in March 2021.
However the recommendation has been been met with frustration from Perth councillors, who have raised concerns over increased travel times and impact on friendships faced by Invergowrie pupils.
“This recommendation is wrong”
Under the boundary changes, Invergowrie pupils will not be automatically eligible for a place at Harris Academy and could have to travel to Perth Academy instead.
This would involve a round trip which would take close to an hour. The journey between Invergowrie and Harris is just over five minutes by car.
Perth and Kinross councillor Willie Wilson – whose ward includes Perth High School – was among those who expressed his concern at the catchment changes.
The Liberal Democrat councillor said: “I think this recommendation is unfortunate and quite bluntly, wrong.
“Students from the Invergowrie area should continue to have the choice of going to Harris Academy.
“There are obvious advantages in terms of travel time and also social contacts with other students who may reside in the west end of Dundee.”
Councillor Alasdair Bailey, who represents the Carse ward, also expressed his disappointment that Invergowrie pupils could miss out on a place at Harris.
He said: “It’s great to see Dundee council doing the right thing by saying that this change will only happen now in August 2022 if approved.
“However, I was disappointed that the proposal is still to remove Invergowrie from the catchment of Harris Academy.
“This was an unwritten two-way deal with Invergowrie Primary School taking roughly as many kids from Dundee as the Harris takes from Invergowrie.”
Despite the recommendations in today’s report, Stewart Hunter – children and families convener at Dundee City Council – reiterated that they were not final.
He said: “We have stressed that no final decisions will be made on the proposals until full reports on the results of the consultation can be considered by the committee in public.
“I would like to thank everyone who has taken part for contributions because their views are extremely valuable in helping us to move forward and take decisions.”
The report on the public consultation revealed there was overwhelming opposition to the proposals from both the Dundee and Perth and Kinross community.
A total of 55 written representations were received – nine from parents, carers, young people and residents from Dundee and 42 from the Perth and Kinross community.
Four additional submissions were also received from the Harris Parent Council, the executive director of education and children’s services at Perth and Kinross Council, Invergowrie Parent Council and the Western Gateway Community.
Of the 55 submissions, just one was in favour of the proposal. A further 52 were against the plans and two were neutral.
The majority of responses submitted raised concerns around the additional length of time young people would spend travelling to and from Perth High School during the school day.
However despite acknowledging Invergowrie pupils would have longer to travel under the proposals, DCC outlined that this was the responsibility of Perth and Kinross.
The report read: “Although Invergowrie Primary is not a listed as a Scottish Government rural primary school, we would accept that there will be transport requirements and incur a longer journey time due its distance from Perth.
“The opportunity for Invergowrie Primary School pupils to attend Harris Academy was a supplementary choice at a time when capacity was available, but this option is no longer viable given that Dundee City Council has an obligation to provide space within its secondary estate for children within its associated primary schools.
“The situation remains that core provision for secondary education needs to be met by Perth and Kinross Council and ultimate responsibility for transport arrangements rests with them also.”
The local authority also dismissed concerns over the impact on relationships and friendships between Invergowrie pupils if they could not attend the same secondary school.
The report added: “If the proposal was to be implemented, we are not suggesting relationships are broken as the proposal suggests all Invergowrie pupils attend the same secondary by going to Perth High School which would enable these friendships to be maintained.
“It should be noted that a feature which secondary schools always provide is the opportunity to create and establish new friendships and bonds due to the greater quantity and diversity of young people attending the school.”