Home   News   Article

Communities losing patience over Highland Council's stance on new-build schools

By Scott Maclennan

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!
The poor state of Charleston Academy.
The poor state of Charleston Academy.

Highland councillors received an update yesterday on its budget after last month’s decision to remove agreed and promised funding to 10 schools provoked fury.

At the time, a number of councillors intimated that the full capital programme would be dealt with at yesterday’s meeting – it wasn’t.

The only position for agreement or refusal was whether or not to accept the budget engagement timetable while redundancies are now a real prospect amid an expected £60-70 million shortfall next year.

Failing to address the elephant in the room – the total loss of funding for 10 schools, though one will go ahead with developer contributions – opened the floodgates for councillors to discuss their concerns.

The council and some administration members continue to insist that the schools funding was not “cut” despite their budgets being largely deleted arguing instead they are “delays” to completing the projects.

That has done absolutely nothing to assuage parents, pupils or councillors adamant that the wrong savings have been made and that local schools communities are the ones to bear the brunt of the pain.

Aird and Loch Ness Councillor Helen Aird pointed out that the report made no mention of the impact on schools and communities, as she warned Beauly Primary presents security issues for pupil safety – the playground is unsecured.

SEE ALSO: Parents launch campaign to build four schools

Comment: Radical and creative thinking needed to overcome school funding challenge

Shocked and deeply disappointed: Fire-hit Easter Ross parents lament shelving of Invergordon project

Education chairman John Finlayson said in response that parents should liaise with the head teacher and then the education manager to attend to any concerns that they have.

Alex Graham representing Inverness West pointed out that Charleston Academy is less than a mile from the council HQ and is currently getting support beams and roof repairs put in to steady the structure and the school estate is “facing a crisis.”

He added that there has been an information void when it comes to informing the public about the schools, he said: “A letter that was sent out to parents, the one thing it doesn’t say is what is actually going on to the school.”

So he asked: “Is it the case that due to the decision taken in September there will be no refurbishment scheduled until 2029 at the earliest?”

He was told that “if and when external funding became available” that would be decided by full council while the stage one planning application will be concluded, design work for stage will be continued and there’s been a planning application for a new nursery – so “work is progressing.”

But without funding for a new Charleston on the horizon that progress will grind to a very sharp halt.

Dingwall and Seaforth Councillor Margaret Paterson reported that communities are getting restive with a local community council meeting held to discuss the fate of St Clement’s Special School in Dingwall.

She asked whether there was any progress in purchasing the land for the proposed – and now delayed or cut – new build that was promised but there was no confirmation on that.

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More