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Parents of children at St Clement's in Dingwall voice concerns over pace of progress on new school

By Scott Maclennan

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Local MSP Maree Todd during an earlier visit to St Clement's in Dingwall speaking to parent council member Christyna Ferguson (right).
Local MSP Maree Todd during an earlier visit to St Clement's in Dingwall speaking to parent council member Christyna Ferguson (right).

Parents of children at St Clement's special school in Dingwall have voiced concerns about the “pace” of progress on talks to develop a new school.

That is despite the parent council acknowledging this is “the furthest we have ever got to delivering a new school”.

The outdated school has been condemned as "not fit for purpose" by critics and a number of MSPs who havevisited and claims made that children there have been let down for decades, despite the excellent input of staff.

Parents fear that the issue could stagnate if considerable work on the statutory engagement process does not advance more quickly.

Christyna Ferguson, who sits on the parent council and liaises with the council on the issue of a new school, said talks with parents have already been delayed.

The parent council was to have been approached in September but in fact officers only met with them in November despite the official consultation due to be launched this year.

There is also a sense of unease that the local authority may try and scale back some features the parents expect to see in the new school, like a pool.

Ms Ferguson said: “This is the furthest we have ever got to delivering an acceptable educational environment for our children and while we welcome the progress it is only as a result of an exhaustive and lengthy campaign.

“There are a number of things that the parent council find alarming with respect to Highland Council’s attitude – our children’s needs would be best served by a new school having a pool, but one officer said for us to insist on a pool could make or break the case for Scottish Government funding – this seems like a threat in the sense that if you demand a pool you will not get a new school.

“Our children have the right to equality under the law and that is what we expect to be delivered – other special schools and indeed mainstream schools have pools so why shouldn’t St.Clement’s? If Highland Council present the strong case our children have for a pool then there is no reason to suppose it would be rejected.

“The pace of delivery is also concerning – Highland Council papers of August 22 stated that the parent council would be approached in September – we weren’t approached until the end of Oct, we are now approaching the end of November and are still at the informal discussion stage.

“At this point, best case scenario, the earliest opening date for a new school is two and a half years years which is at least another two winters going outside in all weathersto get to the toilet, access the lunch or sensory room. Another two and a half years years without adequate washing or medical facilities.

“When one considers Alness and Tain campus’ – real achievements – if the council show the same determination and commitment for St.Clement’s then our children will have the facilities they are entitled to.”

However, Nicky Grant the interim head of education at Highland Council was upbeat about the plans and said things were moving ahead.

“Initial discussions have taken place with the parent council and officers are now preparing a plan to resource and deliver the required consultations across the Highland area, including St. Clements,” she said.

“It is still our intention to further progress the consultation for St. Clements School this year. We look forward to working with the school and the community to increase the access to opportunities for all of our young people. This is an exciting time for all involved.”

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