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Polling stations: Councils’ push to move away from using schools as voting venues

Voters at Buchanhaven School in Peterhead.

North and north-east councils are actively trying to avoid using schools for polling stations to minimise disruption on children’s education.

Aberdeenshire Council have already agreed to stop using additional needs schools as venues for voters after receiving complaints.

Both Westfield School in Fraserburgh and Peterhead’s Anna Ritchie School will no longer be used.

Officials in Aberdeenshire are working towards completely moving polling stations from every school.

North and north-east councils are trying to avoid using schools as polling stations.

It comes after the local authority’s leader Andy Kille was faced with a parent from Westfield School in 2017 pleading for the venue to no longer be used.

Mr Kille said: “Some of the pupils there are particularly susceptible to some ill effects of having their routines disrupted.

“I was approached by a parent on election day in 2017 at the school to ask that it be moved for this reason.

Aberdeen City, Highland and Moray councils have said they try to avoid using schools. They added, however, it is not always possible to avoid.

The trio of local authorities have revealed they try to minimise disruption to pupils. They are always reviewing the buildings being used to cast ballots.

During the Scottish elections in May, one parent council criticised their children’s school being used.

Glashieburn Parent Council in Aberdeen hit out at the impact of the move on pupils. They had already missed a lot of class time due to Covid-19.

‘Oscar’ the Border Collie Puppy, is pictured outside the Hopeman Polling station in Moray.

Aberdeen City Council set out their stall on venues

An Aberdeen City Council spokesman said: “We are not currently in a position to move out of schools entirely.

“We do recognise the disruption it causes when schools are used as polling places and therefore we have stopped using a significant number of schools over recent years as we have responded to requests and suggestions from local communities about the availability of alternatives.

“For example, since the Scottish Parliament elections in May this year, we have found alternatives to Forehill School, Greenbrae School, Middleton Park School and Muirfield School.

“As a result, these will not be used in May next year at the local government elections. There remain a number of areas where we do not currently have a suitable alternative.”

The spokesman added they would encourage people to offer alternative polling places by emailing the council at elections@aberdeencity.gov.uk.

Schools are among some of the buildings used as polling stations.

Highland Council’s view on polling stations

Highland Council said that they use a polling station scheme to pick venues for major ballots. The last one was approved by the local authority in September 2019.

They consult with schools and community councils, the electorate, councillors, MPs, MSPs and any other elected representatives and disability and minority groups.

For Highland Council’s latest by-election this month they decided not to use any schools as venues to minimise disruption on children’s education.

A local authority spokesman said: “Venues used for poll are determined by the polling station scheme.  The current polling scheme was approved on 6 September 2019 by Highland Councillors and includes the use of schools.

“For the by-election poll taking place on December 2, the returning Officer decided not to use any schools to minimise impact to education of the children.

“For the forthcoming May 5 2022 Local Government Election and May UK Parliamentary 2024, inset days have been put in place.

“The next statutory review of the polling scheme is scheduled for October 2023.”

A voter enters a polling station in Inverness.

Schools in Moray remain open during polling day

Moray Council said they carried out their review of polling station venues just a couple of months before the last UK general election in 2019.

The local authority said the consultation led to changes for some venues with a school being replaced.

Moray Council also said that when schools are used during elections they continue to open as normal.

A spokesman for Moray Council said: “We carried out a polling district and polling place review in October 2019. It was open for public consultation.

“This resulted in a number of changes to current polling districts and stations, which did see a former polling station in a school setting replaced with an alternative venue.

“We use a small number of schools for polling stations and most continue to operate on polling day, so the impact on education is minimised.”

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