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'Does nobody care?' Highland Council admits a new St Clement’s will take at least another 8 years

By Scott Maclennan

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Caleb MacLean, Lorraine MacLean and Avril Robertson. Picture: James Mackenzie.
Caleb MacLean, Lorraine MacLean and Avril Robertson. Picture: James Mackenzie.

Highland Council has admitted that a new St Clement’s building will not be built until the early years of the next decade – prompting claims that “some pyramids were built quicker”.

It comes after one parent Lorraine MacLean issued a desperate plea after 12 years of campaigning, asking the council: “Why does no one care?”

A meeting of parents, councillors and officials also got confirmation that land for a new build school is due to be purchased imminently – but there is no guarantee it will not be repurposed.

Though technically still on the capital plan, there will be no cash for the school in the next five years. If money does emerge, the school would take at least three to build.

The parent council’s Avril Robertson said: “We were told that the land for a new St Clement’s was bought for £500,000, and that is welcome news. What is not welcome news is that there is no guarantee that it will not be repurposed in the time it takes to build a new school.

“The council now says that it will take another eight years for a new school: it will not appear within the next five years and it would take a further three to three and a half years to build.That is something the parents find completely unacceptable. It means we will have been campaigning for a new school building for close to 30 years. Some Egyptian pyramids were built quicker than that.”

Ms MacLean said. “My son is 15 and attends St.Clements school and has done since he was three. Why does no one care? It’s just empty promise after empty promise and disappointment after disappointment. Everyone who comes to the school cannot believe how basic and appalling the buildings are.

“Our children are the most vulnerable and are being totally let down and neglected. This is about their most basic needs not being met. They have no gym hall, no science, music, cookery or in fact any specialist classes.

“Disabled children have to access school through a public car park which serves a community centre and a Highland Council workplace. The school caters for 3-18 year olds yet there is no provision for secondary education as there are no facilities unlike their peers they don’t get to make subject choices.

“There are no specialist visiting teachers unlike all other schools. The staff there go above and beyond but it’s so unfair on them too. So what now? What is plan B? What about our children now?

“Our children, my son, deserve so much more and the Highland Council and Scottish Government should be ashamed. I beg you please come and see for yourself our wonderful children and staff and our Dickensian school.”

In September, the SNP-Independent administration removed the budgets for 10 schools including St Clement’s arguing they were unaffordable

Culling the budgets like that could have been read by the government as the council’s inability to push on with any of the projects. The next month the Scottish Government did not got give the Highlands a penny from the £2 billion Learning Estate Investment Programme.

The local Dingwall and Seaforth Councillors did visit the school this week along with others.

One of those, Councillor Sean Kennedy, said: “We were shown around the school and it is basically a warren that is totally unsuited to education. I don’t know how the staff can possibly work in those conditions.

“More than anything we need to remember that the children at St Clement’s are the most vulnerable in the region. The council may have purchased the land but it is imperative that it is guaranteed to a future of St Clement’s – if we can’t offer some promise of the future, then what is the point?”

Highland Council's position is that it the region has worse schools for condition and suitability. Nationally, the percentage of schools graded as ‘Good’ is nearly 91 per cent.

But in the Highlands it is just under 20 per cent – 68 (34 per cent) of north school buildings have an overall rating of 'C-Poor Condition' and 74 (37 per cent) are rated 'C-Poor Suitability'.

Therefore the leader, Cllr Raymond Bremner, wrote to education secretary Jenny Gilruth outlining this.

And since she said she would "be taking forward further engagement and collaboration with Cosla" to explore potential solutions to sub-standard schools the council is now "very encouraged by this."

Leader of the Council, Raymond Bremner said: “We have 200 schools across Highland. Despite a huge amount of investment in the school estate, the scale of the challenge is just too great for the council to manage within its own resources, which is why the council is keen to explore any and all opportunities to enhance the capital it has available for repair and refurbishment as well as wholescale replacement.”

If St Clement's was awarded funding for a new school on the first say of a new capital programme then the earliest it could open is 2031.

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