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15 school buildings in Inverness and Nairn considered in 'poor' condition

By Scott Maclennan

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Culloden Academy, Inverness.
Culloden Academy, Inverness.

The Inverness and Nairn areas have the second most schools considered to be in a "poor" condition according to the latest national figures with 15 in all.

The most recent Scottish Government assessment of school building conditions – rating accommodation either good, satisfactory, poor or bad – more than a third (35 per cent) of Highland Council’s 203 schools received a “poor” rating.

That is the highest percentage of any local authority – 60 primaries, 11 secondaries and one special school received the failing grade.

But in Inverness and Nairn some of those schools deemed to have substandard buildings are Beauly, Bishop Eden, Crown, Daviot, Dochgarroch, Drakies, Foyers (currently closed to a low school roll), Hilton, Millbank, and Rosebank primaries as well as Charleston, Culloden and Nairn Academies.

Across the rest of the region there were eight in Sutherland, three in Caithness and two in Badenoch and Strathspey – the others were located in Skye and Lochaber.

But Ross-shire had by far the most as its roll of shame includes academies in Tain, Invergordon and Fortrose as well as the St Clement’s special school in Dingwall and 26 primaries coast to coast.

There was a huge number on the Black Isle including Avoch, Newmore, Tore, Tarradale, and Ferintosh primaries.

And even more in Easter Ross with Obsdale (in Alness), Coulhill, Bridgend (Alness), Dingwall, Marybank, Strathconon, Kinlochewe, Lochcarron, Loch Duich, Applecross and Plockton.

Frustration has been mounting for some time over the state of St Clement’s and Park Primary but concerns about the condition of Fortrose Academy were raised at the council’s last full meeting before the summer recess.

A Ms J Bisset asked if, after raising serious concerns about “numerous significant and longstanding defects”, she should interpret the council’s silence as recognition that it places “little value on the safety and wellbeing of the Fortrose school population”.

Council leader Raymond Bremner responded that “as a direct consequence of the concerns raised” works had been undertaken and a “targeted condition survey” commissioned.

Ms R Wright, a Fortrose Academy pupil, also said “it doesn’t seem fair” that other secondaries have much better facilities compared to Fortrose.

Education chairman John Finlayson acknowledged that “like many schools in Highland” there were parts of Fortrose Academy that need “updating”.

The long list of “poor” schools comes despite a massive programme of investment which saw 21 properties “substantially refurbished” in 2021-22, more than all 10 previous years combined.

Many of the improvements, however, were concentrated on nursery provision in order to deliver the Scottish Government’s 1140 hours of early learning and childcare for families.

The council has previously criticised the Scottish Government for delays to the announcement of additional funding that could be made available through its Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP).

An announcement on Highland’s allocation had originally been expected last year and then by this summer, with both deadlines now missed.

The SNP-led administration at Highland Council has agreed to write to the government to press it to say when any announcement will now be made.

Black Isle independent councillor Sarah Atkin said: “I know the condition of Fortrose Academy is causing huge concern. Multiple issues are piling up, in addition to the appalling state of the art/maths block. Officials are well aware of this. I have every sympathy with parental frustration. Local members do care. I hope parents know that.

“Why Ross-shire schools appear to be disproportionately poor raises additional questions of equity and strategy. This is a huge number of schools.

“We know that money is tight, and nobody can promise what cannot be delivered. However, there perhaps needs to be a hard-nosed, strategic look at what is and is not sustainable.”

This week Highland Council repeated a statement issued in May when it confirmed a review of its capital programme for schools was needed due to inflation-led rises in costs.

A spokesperson added: “The review could not be concluded until the outcomes of Scottish Government decisions in relation to the Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP) were known as the programme is inextricably linked to external funding decisions and opportunities, and an assessment against affordability, deliverability, and impact, is required before decisions on the final revised programme can be made by members.”

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