Published: 08/11/2017 12:00 - Updated: 07/11/2017 07:07

Something must be done about state of Wester Ross schools, says councillor

EDUCATION will suffer if urgent action is not taken to improve schools in Ross-shire, a councillor has warned

Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh councillor Ian Cockburn slammed the poor condition of schools in his ward, calling them an “absolute disaster”.

His comments came after a report into Plockton High School and its associated primaries showed only three of the nine buildings are deemed to be “satisfactory” in terms of suitability and the other six were deemed poor. Only five were thought to be in a suitable condition, with the rest branded “poor”.

At the Ross and Cromarty area committee on Tuesday, Councillor Cockburn called for schools in the west to be given priority in the local authority’s shrinking budget.

“There are a lot of positive things, including one of the lowest unemployment rates in the whole of the UK,” he said.

“However, looking at the doom and gloom – six out of nine schools are unsuitable, which is a disgrace. Then on to the condition – five are just satisfactory and the rest are poor.

“In Wester Ross this has gone on for 20 or 30 years. Something has got to be done. They are an absolute disaster and they can only get worse. The positive results we are getting are not going to keep up if the building standards go down and down.”

Education officer Don Esson pointed out that a partial refurbishment of Plockton High was carried out last year, costing £3 million.

A report tabled at the meeting included tables assessing the “suitability” of school buildings and their condition.

Auchteryre and Kyleakin primaries are assessed as “satisfactory” in both categories.

 

Cllr Ian Cockburn: 'Could spend that in 10 minutes' on required road works.
Cllr Ian Cockburn: 'Absolute disaster'.
However the suitability and condition of buildings at Loch Duich, Lochcarron and Applecross are deemed “poor”.

 

The suitability of Plockton High is categorised as “poor” though its condition is regarded as satisfactory.

There’s a mixed picture at Glenelg, Kyle and Plockton Primary.

Highland Council has faced a tirade of complaints about the condition of many buildings, from overcrowding, damp, crumbling walls and glass window panes falling into classrooms. Fortrose Academy on the Black Isle was amongst those to get some remedial action carried out following a local campaign fronted by parents.

Of 205 schools in Highland, only 24 are described as in good condition, while 78 are poor and eight have been capped due to capacity issues.

In September, Highland Council opposition leader Maxine Smith claimed Ross-shire schools were being neglected by Highland Council

In her own Cromarty Firth ward, she highlighted the need to replace Park and South Lodge in Invergordon “as a matter of urgency” and said the needs of Newmore must not be ignored. Cllr Pauline Munro in the same ward also pressed the case for rebuilds of primaries in Alness.

The administration said at the time that SNP councillors were calling on the council to rein in its borrowing on the one hand but demanding more be spent on rural schools on the other. It also said major inroads could be made very quickly if the Scottish Government increased the grant it paid to Highland Council.

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