Major promises money for gym to be pulled down

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The Independent Online

The gymnasium at Dunblane primary school is to be pulled down. John Major, who visited the town yesterday and who laid a wreath at the school gates alongside Opposition leader Tony Blair, promised that government money would be provided to redevelop the site.

During a tour of the school, after he had visited Stirling Royal Infirmary, Mr Major announced his preference for the gym's future in stark terms."They must pull it down," the Prime Minister said.

The school's headmaster, Ron Taylor, who accompanied the two politicians on their walk inside the school, thenasked Mr Major if he would provide the money. The Secretary of State for Scotland, Michael Forsyth, responded: "Of course we will."

The future of the building has been under discussion by the area's education authority, Central Region. Some authority officials believed that to destroy the school gym would be an act that would accomplish little. The region has been taking advice from clinical psychologists on what effect the building, if it remained in place, would have on the minds of the school's pupils. However, views expressed by friends of the bereaved families to demolish the hall have been partially accepted by the school's governing body.

Yesterday, the chairman of the board of governors, Michael Robbins, said: "The school is open and is available to those parents and any relatives who feel they have a need to go inside and visit the gymnasium."

Mr Robbins said many clearly saw the gym as a "focal point of grief" but that once that process was over "the gym really should be demolished". He added: "We understand that Mr Major has offered the money for it to be demolished and more importantly to be redeveloped."

Just what form that redevelopment will take - whether the gymnasium will be rebuilt or whether the area occupied will be turned into some form of memorial - is not yet clear. However, Mr Robbins, expressing the wishes of the school board said: "We want to move away from any idea of a granite slab memorial."

It is understood that a form of memorial more appropriate to the images that the children of the school could gather strength from is being considered. Mr Robbins said: "One of the ideas is that we have some sort of garden area - a quiet area for children."

Commenting on Mr Major and Mr Blair's visit, Mr Robbins said that the atmosphere inside the school was "very sombre". He said the two men behaved "more like parents than politicians".

The governors have decided to reopen the school for classes next Friday following the Queen's visit to the Perthshire town tomorrow and the first of the funerals, possibly on Monday. "They will then have time to be back at school for one day followed immediately by the weekend. It will then only be one week at school before the Easter holidays," Mr Robbins said.