Ardallie Primary moth-balled

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A RURAL primary school is to close its doors provisionally, after the school roll fell to just two pupils.

Ardallie Primary, between Ellon and Hatton, has suffered a falling school roll for a number of years, with fewer and fewer pupils in attendance at the tiny school.

The departure of the last two pupils - who will now attend Arnage and Hatton Primaries - has left the future of the facility in doubt. However, despite there being no pupils, Aberdeenshire Council has stated that it cannot officially close the school, due to the Scottish Government’s ongoing moratorium against rural school closures.

The school, which just a couple of months ago won a coveted Green Flag Award for pupils’ environmental work, also serves as a ‘community hub’ for Ardallie, which has no other logical centre point. As such, the community will not only be losing a school, but a valuable facility.

Almost exactly one year ago, the Times spoke to Ardallie Headminstress Gaynor Steel about the school’s declining school roll, after no new Primary one pupils enrolled in 2011.

She said at the time: “A lot of young families simply prefer staying closer to their work, either in Ellon or Aberdeen. They also worry about childcare provision, though we do have an arrangement with a childcare provider in Ellon.

“We know of families who have school age children in the area, however they choose to send them to the Ellon primaries - maybe for a bigger social group, or because they started school there and want to stay with their friends. One problem we do have is that local estate agents advertising houses in the area always mention schooling in Ellon, which means a lot of people probably don’t even know about Ardallie.”

A spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council confirmed to the Times that the school’s remaining two pupils were set to be moved to other local primaries by their parents, and that staff would also be redistributed.

She said: “Over the last year Aberdeenshire Council has carried out an extensive consultation of its school estate to provide a fuller picture of issues and priorities across the area.
“Pupil numbers at Ardallie have been fluctuating for a number of reasons and the council has monitored the situation closely.
“The situation is such that the school will now cease to function as both pupils will be placed elsewhere in the next few weeks. Ardallie staff will be redistributed to schools in the local network.”

The school’s pupil roll has been in a state of flux since the 1970s, in line with many other rural areas which experienced drops in population. Aberdeenshire Council’s records since 2002 indicate that the council had anticipated the school roll dropping to 13 this year, followed by an incremental rise to 26 in 2017.

The Times attempted to contact the school, however we were told that staff had been instructed not to speak to the press.