'Transformational' Highland campus cash bid wins council backing as Inverness school capacity issues come under review
A "transformational" Highland school campus has been given pole position for Scottish Government funding at a crunch meeting this afternoon.
Members have, at a special Highland Council meeting today, agreed a top priority for the Scottish Government New Schools Investment Programme bid.
Councillors agreed that the proposed Tain 3-18 campus project in Easter Ross should be nominated as the Highland Council’s priority for consideration by the Scottish Government for inclusion in the initial phase of the New Schools Investment Programme, with a delivery time scale by the end of 2021.
A second priority will be to secure funding to provide a new campus at Broadford on Skye as the Highland Council recognises that as a high priority in the next phase of school infrastructure investment.
Capacity issues in Inverness are to be assessed as part of a review of provision across the city and a report will be brought to a future meeting, prior to being considered as part of the refresh of the capital programme.
Further engagement will be carried out with parent councils in relation to the remaining agreed school investment priorities.
It was also agreed to seek to secure funding to provide a replacement school for Nairn Academy through a bid to the further, larger, phase of investment from the Schools Investment Programme, in conjunction with the planned refresh of the council’s capital programme.
Chief executive Donna Manson said: “It has been made clear that the initial phase of projects must meet all the criteria set out in the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Strategy. In essence, phase 1 is about innovation. It is not simply about replacing a school in poor condition, it is about delivering a transformational place-based strategy and making the most of our public sector resource.
"Tain fulfils all criteria to a much greater extent than any other of the 11 projects that the council agreed in June 2019.”
Chair of care and learning and housing committee, Cllr John Finlayson, said: “I have visited all 11 schools on our priority list. I have looked at the reports and the evidence supporting their needs, and I have listened to the debates and the discussions. Because of this, I feel we do have the right decision here today.
"Tain campus provides the opportunity to be transformational. It will benefit and affect a whole inclusive learning community of all ages. It will deliver better outcomes for our children, reducing transitions and barriers to learning and it will provide our most vulnerable learners with a lifelong learning opportunity.”
Leader of the Council Margaret Davidson welcomed the decision. She said: “It is very difficult to choose one school over another when in Highland we have over 200 schools and a significant need in terms of ageing estate. I welcome the decision today because this is the right thing to do – to put forward the most transformational project which provides the best chance of achieving funding in this round.
“The Tain Campus presents opportunities to have strengthened partnerships with the Health Centre, housing and the care home for the elderly. It can bring significant economic development in releasing capital receipts and bringing more housing opportunities for developing the eastern seaboard area as a whole.”
It will be built on a site at the existing Craighill Primary in Tain.
Cllr Davidson added: “The decisions today do take account of the other priorities within our learning estate and although today was about selecting one project, work is being progressed so that the council benefits from investment in the next phase of the New Schools Investment Programme, which is to be announced within 12 months.”
Members also agreed that the engagement with the parent council of St.Clement’s School in Dingwall will include a review of the potential locations for a new school prior to initiating a formal statutory consultation process later this year on the location and nature of a replacement facility for St Clement’s.
It also agreed that the formal consultation will begin this year.
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