School gym may be pulled down

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The Independent Online
JAMES CUSICK

The children of Dunblane Primary will return to their classrooms next week. But whether they will ever return to the gymnasium that the outside world now regards as a chamber of horrors is currently under discussion by the area's education authority, Central Region.

Yesterday, officers from the region endured a barrage of questions over Thomas Hamilton's background, the responsibility they had for the safety of the pupils and whether his sexual deviance and gun ownership should have been the subject of greater authority vigilance.

However, the crucial question of the building itself was an issue gaining importance in Dunblane's road back to normality.

Teams of counsellers and social workers in tandem with the police are dealing with the immediate consequences of the massacre of the 16 infants and their teacher.

Mike Ransom, head of the region's social-work team, said: "The primary focus is to help the community - to help its heart." However, the complex question of whether the children of Dunblane will ever again feel safe in their gymnasium is clearly causing serious concern.

No specific decision has yet been taken on whether it will be demolished. In the small Perthshire town yesterday some residents said they believed the school gym should never again be used for exercise and games.

One elderly resident standing outside the cathedral said: "We will always feel that the hall will be a special place. I don't know what that means, but how can they [the pupils] ever just play in that place again?"

Education officers said at a briefing yesterday that they were taking advice on the future of the building. Gordon Jeyes, who will take over as education head when the new local authority takes office on 1 April, said: "To take a decision immediately would be inappropriate." He, too, said the gymnasium was now a special place. "And it always will be a special place."

He added that the priority was to get the school open and functioning again, "so that the children can benefit from the support they will be able to give each other."

It is understood that a clinical psychologist and other behavioural experts have advised the region that to destroy the school would be a mistake.

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