PRIMARY schools across East Lothian have been told that they will not be able to hold summer fairs on primary school grounds this summer.

East Lothian Council says this is due to staff shortages within its facilities management teams, meaning lets cannot be supported for the schools at weekends.

The council says that fairs and other weekend events can still go ahead at other venues, including at secondary schools, whose facilities teams are supplied by Forth Electrical Services (FES).

Helen Schoen has children at Dunbar Primary School and is part of the parent council team which organises the school’s summer fair, which helps raise funds for the school.

She told the Courier: “We had our first school fair back last May after Covid.

"The fair has always been held at the primary school but we were told on short notice that the council couldn’t get a let agreement to open the school on a Saturday.

“We were fearful [last year's] event would be cancelled but the school headteacher opened the school anyway and it went ahead.

“We have now been told that the headteacher is no longer allowed to make that decision and that the school cannot be opened on the Saturday for the fair. Our Christmas fair had to be held at Dunbar Grammar School as a result.

“We have tried hard to speak with the council and object to this but it seems every response we get is a similar cut and paste job about a shortage of janitors.

“We of course want janitors to be given fair treatment and would not want them to be treated unfairly. However, not opening the grounds for the fair is really sad.

“What the council isn’t understanding is just how important the school fair is to the community. Last year we had a huge attendance. There are about 1,200 pupils at the school and, with parents as well coming along, it was very busy.

“We made over £3,000 in profit, which was given to the school to buy books. This year, we hope to raise money for science equipment.”

Dunbar Primary School will instead run a fair at Bleachingfield Community Centre in Dunbar on May 13.

Helen said that she feared a new venue would detract from the attendance and the atmosphere of the event.

She said: “Our fear is that having to run it elsewhere, we will lose the feeling of it being a primary school event.

"Events like this are important to allow staff and parents to mingle and for kids to have fun.

“The staff at the school are really supportive and hopefully there will still be some in attendance this year.

“The council won’t even let us use the playground, which we know is safe and secure for kids, so there is a health and safety concern too with it being held at Bleachingfield.

“Ideally, we would like the council to consider allowing each primary school to open on one Saturday for a fair.

“We understand school funding is tight, our kids are coming home telling us that they are learning about how tight the school budget is, but I feel like the council do not understand how important school fairs are.”

A council spokesperson said: “Due to staff shortages within our facilities management teams, we have business continuity restraints which mean that we cannot support lets at weekends in our primary schools only at the current time.

“This is because we do not have the resource to service these requirements.

"Our secondary schools remain available for event lets and can be used by primary schools.

“We also have a number of alternative facilities across our communities which are available for event lets.

“Recruitment continues for facilities team members to alleviate these pressures; however, in the meantime, we continue to engage with parent councils to find alternative solutions within their local area from the facilities that are available to them.”