Councillor launches a bold bid to improve Ross-shire’s crumbling school estate
Easier access to your trusted, local news. Subscribe to a digital package and support local news publishing.
A BOLD bid to improve Ross-shire’s crumbling school estate could be launched next week if Highland councillors heed a rallying call highlighting how far behind it has fallen the rest of the country.
Councillor Helen Crawford aims to declare a “school estate emergency” along with an emergency action plan that would include Highland Council directly lobbying First Minister, Humza Yousaf.
The SNP-led administration has come in for stinging criticism after it “deferred” the building of 10 vital projects in September saying it lacked funding. Park Primary in Invergordon no longer exists after burning down and the St Clement's special school buidlings in Dingwall have been called "Dickensian".
The last hope from the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Improvement Programme (LEIP) bit the dust in October when the SNP’s education secretary confirmed the Highlands wouldn't get a penny.
Earlier this week Scotland’s position in international education rankings took a hit with record lows in maths, reading and science.
Cllr Crawford wants the council to put the condition of Highland schools front and centre so that Holyrood cannot ignore the plight of thousands of pupils and staff.
Highland Council has by the worst school estate in Scotland and nowhere is in more need of funding than Ross-shire, which hosts almost half of the run-down buildings.
Across the north, of 167 primaries just 27 are rated A – Good; 84 are considered B – Satisfactory; and 56 are graded as C – Poor. Over 33 per cent of primaries are considered to be in a “poor” condition.
There are 29 secondary schools. 10 are considered A – Good; eight are considered B – satisfactory; but 11 are rated as C – poor, again more than a third.
Ross-shire has the greatestb proportion of school buildings in bad shape.
The county's roll of shame includes academies in Invergordon and Fortrose as well as the St Clement’s special school in Dingwall and 26 primaries coast to coast.
They include Park in Invergordon, destroyed by fire and yet to to be rebuilt, Avoch, Newmore, Obsdale (in Alness), Kiltearn, Coulhill, Bridgend (Alness), Tore, Tarradale, Ferintosh, Dingwall, Marybank, Strathconon, Loch Duich and Applecross.
A second level of consideration is suitability – how far a school campus is fit for the purpose of delivering the curriculum and whether the “design and layout enhance its function and use” all its demands and services.
Once again the Highlands score low: 60 are rated as C – Poor, meaning 35 per cent are believed to be not good enough for pupils to be taught in while for secondary 13 schools have been rated as C – Poor, the equivalent of almost 45 per cent.
Cllr Crawford has tabled a motion that will be debated and discussed at next week’s full council meeting on December 14.
She said: “Across Scotland the percentage of schools graded good for condition and suitability is almost 91 per cent. That’s in sharp contrast to the situation we have here in the Highlands where not even 20 per cent of our schools are graded A-Good.
“And, of more concern, according to statistics provided on the Scottish Government’s own website, 10 per cent of secondary schools across Scotland are rated C-Poor, in contrast to 37 per cent here in the Highlands.”
She continued: “We know that thousands of our children across The Highlands are spending their school day in buildings that are not fit for purpose. And an unacceptable number of teaching and support staff are spending their working life in those buildings too and that must impact negatively upon recruitment and retention of teachers.
“The poor state of schools across Highland is significantly worse than the rest of Scotland. For these reasons, I am calling upon all Highland Councillors to support this motion declaring a school estate emergency until we have fixed the problem that is clearly affecting our children’s education.”