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BREAKING: Scottish Government REJECTS all Highland school funding bids

By Scott Maclennan

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St Clement's Special School in Dingwall. Picture Gary Anthony.
St Clement's Special School in Dingwall. Picture Gary Anthony.

Desperately needed schools in the Highlands are now almost certain not to go ahead after bids for Scottish Government funding were totally rejected – the cash will now go to 10 other local authorities.

Highland Council originally made three bids for a share of the £2 billion Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP) cash – one for Beauly, Dunvegan and Park Primaries and a second for St Clement’s Special School.

A third bid for Tornagrain Primary is no longer expected to have an impact because it is believed the new build school will go ahead through developer contributions but for the others it will be devastating news.

LEIP funding is designed to build new, modern, state of the art facilities and an announcement on the third phase worth £450-500 million was originally expected more than a year ago but was delayed.

Ten local authorities are to be awarded funding including – three Additional Support Needs (ASN) schools and a total of six projects which include ASN capacity, which will be an especially bitter pill for St Clements.

Education Secretary Jenny Gilruth confirmed the news earlier today and was made well aware of the issues in the Highlands when three MSPs raised it in Holyrood just over a month ago.

“I am determined to deliver excellence and equity across Scotland’s schools, and ensuring that pupils are educated in modern, state of the art facilities is an important part of that.

“This latest phase of the £2 billion Learning Estate Investment Programme will continue to support local authorities to deliver improvements in our school estate, and ensures continued progress in ASN provision in particular.

“This latest round of investment means that every Scottish local authority which submitted a bid has now received funding for a project in Phases 1, 2 or 3 the Learning Estate Investment programme.

“As a direct result of Scottish Government investment, the proportion of schools in ‘good’ or ‘satisfactory’ condition has increased from 61 per cent in April 2007 to 90.7 per cent in April 2023 and this investment will build on this remarkable progress.

“We will continue working with COSLA to explore how we can deliver further improvements in the school estate, as well as ensuring provision in those areas experiencing population growth.”

Councillor Tony Buchanan, COSLA Spokesperson for Children and Young People, said:

“We welcome today’s announcement of the projects which will benefit from phase three of this joint Learning Estate Investment Programme.

"Creating the very best possible learning environments to allow children to thrive is a top priority for our councils. Scottish Local Government funds 50% of the programme and we are delighted that more children and families will benefit from access to the improved educational environments while also contributing to our net zero goals.

"These council led projects really demonstrate the innovation from Local Government and partners that makes positive change a reality in people’s lives.”

Stephen Long, Learning Estate Team Lead at the Scottish Futures Trust, said:

“We are pleased to continue our support to improving the learning estate in a wide range of communities across all parts of Scotland.

"This new phase will build on the ambition of previous phases by addressing embodied carbon, utilising zero emission heating, creating healthier learning environments and encouraging outdoor learning.”

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