Published: 06/07/2012 11:00 - Updated: 06/07/2012 12:13

End of an era as school closes down

Written byJohn MacKay

 A SAD Wester Ross community has finally closed the doors of its primary school to pupils after 136 years.

But the folk of remote Inverasdale, north-west of Poolewe, are determined the old Victorian building will continue to ring with the sound of young - and old - enjoying themselves.

A decision to mothball the school was made by Highland Council after its roll fell to only two, despite an earlier heroic campaign by residents to attract more young families to the area.

Inverasdale’s primary school had survived a threat by the council to close it in 1998 – a move which was averted by locals in an ingenious campaign to increase its roll.

The West Lochewe Community Council enrolled the help of Albyn Housing Association, which agreed to provide four affordable homes in the area where previously none existed.

These were taken up by young families with children who boosted the school’s numbers and the axe was avoided.

More recently, when the roll dropped again, the community desperately tried to attract yet more house-building but this time were unsuccessful in halting the decline.

This week they heard from area education officer Norma Young at a local meeting that it had been decided to close the school on a care and maintenance basis, with its two pupils and teacher Jean Ross transferring to Poolewe Primary School five miles away.

The announcement was especially poignant for community council chairman Amy MacDonald, who was head teacher at the school for 22 years, before retiring 14 years ago.

She said that although local people felt the closure was inevitable, many were taken aback by the speed of the decision.

She said: "We were told that only recently a situation had become obvious that keeping Inverasdale open was unviable and that a full second teacher’s post could be maintained at Poolewe if the pupils transferred.

"We found the claim that this became apparent only recently hard to believe and were shocked at the speed of the decision.

"Having spent so many years working at the school and having been part of two hard campaigns to keep it open, I was frankly quite hurt by the speed at which this was all announced.

"Having said that, I think everyone here accepts the school could not really remain open and that the pupils will be better at a bigger school with more children around them."

However, the residents are determined that the school will remain in community use and have won an assurance that it will be fully maintained for at least the next two years.

Mrs MacDonald added: "We believe it is vital that this beautiful building continues to be used by the community for meetings and for local events.

"One of the events we will be arranging is a celebration with all kinds of artefacts and photographs showing the important role the school has played for well over a century in Inverasdale."

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