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St Clement's School parents in Dingwall get briefing on proposals for a new build as site appraisals continue


By Hector MacKenzie

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St Clement's School in Dingwall.
St Clement's School in Dingwall.

Parents of St Clement’s School have been briefed on the latest developments in assessment of sites for a new school.

The council has been undertaking routine ground investigations at Ferry Road in Dingwall, one of "several sites" identified for consideration as a potential location for a replacement St Clement’s School, in line with a review of locations agreed in 2019.

The Victorian-era school building children currently occupy has been declared unfit for purpose by MSP Maree Todd and was declared "something out of Oliver Twist" by Dingwall-based MSP Kate Forbes.

A further review of potential sites in Dingwall has identified another option for consideration, and an assessment similar to that under way at Ferry Road will be carried out there.

The outcome of the site investigations and potential costs associated will help inform an options appraisal for possible development of the school and are a part of an overall site assessment of each location.

Local members met with council officers and parents from the school this week to provide an update on the work being undertaken to assess potential sites.

The chair of the Parent Council, Avril Robertson welcomed the update: “Parents really want to engage positively and productively. What really matters is the children and their future. we want to help as much as we can and ultimately secure a new build, stand alone ASN school for the kids.”

Cllr John Finlayson: Council has 'competing demands' for investment.
Cllr John Finlayson: Council has 'competing demands' for investment.

Chairman of the education committee, Cllr John Finlayson said: “St Clement’s School was identified as one of 11 priority schools, in March 2018, for future funding bids to the Scottish Government.

“The council has a range of competing demands for investment, across the school estate and other infrastructure requirements. The pandemic has also significantly impacted the Council’s financial position, and in turn the council is having to re-assess its longer term financial plans and capital investment in light of that.”

He added: “The Council and local members will continue to work collectively with parents, elected members and other stakeholders, to achieve consensus on the best long term solution for a replacement for St Clements.”

A report will be taken to the Education Committee on May 20.

Background

St Clement’s School was identified as one of 11 priority schools for future funding bids to the Scottish Government in March 2018.

The Tain 3-18 campus was subsequently included in Phase 1 of the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Investment Programme announced in September 2019, with Broadford Primary School and Nairn Academy included in Phase 2 of the programme announced in December 2020.

Funding for all three projects was included in the council’s re-profiled capital programme that was approved in January 2021.

Initial site option appraisal work was undertaken for St Clement’s in the late summer and autumn of 2018, the council says.

Highland Council has undertaken various engagement sessions and it was agreed that there would be a review of the potential locations for a new school prior to initiating a formal statutory consultation process on the location and nature of a replacement facility for St Clement’s, "should funding be made available".

The potential site at Ferry Road was put forward at a Major Pre-Application Advice meeting last year. Thereafter, the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK wide lockdown from 23 March "had a significant impact on progress with this appraisal work and other council activities".

A statutory consultation can proceed once that initial appraisal work is complete, and following further informal engagement with parents, before commencing a formal statutory consultation on a new school.

The council said it "remains committed to improving the environment for our young people attending St Clement's, however funding to deliver a new school still has to be identified".

It added: "The council has a range of competing demands for investment, across the school estate and other infrastructure requirements. The pandemic has also significantly impacted the council’s financial position, and in turn the council is having to re-assess its longer term financial plans and capital investment in light of that.

"The council will continue to work collectively with parents, local elected members, local MSPs and other stakeholders, to achieve consensus on the best long-term solution for a replacement for St Clement's."

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