A MOVE to merge Prestonpans Infant & Nursery School with Prestonpans Primary School to create one “umbrella” education facility has been given unanimous backing by East Lothian's councillors.

The proposal will mean the last of the county’s infant schools will disappear and a new single school will be created.

However, there are no plans to move buildings, with the new merged school run across the two former education establishments.

Until now the schools in the town had P1-P3s attending the infant school before transferring to the primary school for P4 to P7.

However, both schools operated their own curriculums independent of each other.

A recent inspection by Education Scotland found a gap in the literacy and numeracy performance of children coming into P4.

The new school will follow a single curriculum and a single headteacher will be appointed to oversee its management.

The decision to push ahead with the plans came despite a public consultation which found only 33 per cent of those who took part were in favour of the proposal, with 60 per cent against it.

And it was revealed that while the parent council of the infant school was for the merger, the same body from the primary school had opposed it.

Fiona Robertson, East Lothian’s head of education, said that following those results she had arranged to meet face to face with parents at public meetings in a bid to tackle their concerns.

She said: “It is really important we work with the parental community and I took part in further meetings with parents because in their minds to say 'closure' sounds like their school is going to be shut and there were concerns about operating over two sites.”

Mrs Robertson said that Helen Gillanders, headteacher of Dunbar Primary School, which operates over two sites, also attended meetings to discuss how her school operates.

The merging of the two schools was supported by all four ward councillors at a meeting in Haddington.

Councillor Willie Innes, council leader, said it was “the most important decision we make".

He said: “Pupils’ life chances are affected by their school experiences and both schools play a significant role in this community.”

He acknowledged that there had been concerns from some parents but pointed to a recent inspection at Prestonpans Primary School which had called for additional support to be given to the school after grading its performance as 'weak' in parts.

He said: “We know we have and have had great teachers, inspiring headteachers and great support staff and yet we receive these reports.

“We owe it to the children of Prestonpans to give them the best opportunities they can. I think in the long term it will be the best benefit for the people of Prestonpans.”

His view was given cross-party support at the council meeting, with fellow councillor Norman Hampshire saying that concerns about the merger were caused by “a fear of the unknown”.

The new school is expected to be operational by February, with a Transition Action Group brought in to oversee any changes. Its name is still to be decided.