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Highland Council should be paying for textbooks - not parents, says Deputy education secretary and First Minister John Swinney

By Philip Murray

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John Swinney.
John Swinney.

A BLACK ISLE school's reliance on parental donations to pay for some textbooks should not be happening, Scotland’s education secretary and Deputy First Minister has insisted.

John Swinney said parents at Fortrose Academy should not have to raise thousands of pounds for school textbooks because Highland Council has a statutory duty to do so, as outlined in the Education (Scotland) Act.

During Portfolio Questions in the Scottish Parliament chamber, Kate Forbes MSP asked the Scottish Government what requirements local authorities had to provide children with the basic tools of learning at school.

Responding, Deputy First Minister John Swinney quoted legislation which states that “an education authority shall provide free of charge for all pupils belonging to their area who are given free education... books, writing materials, stationery, mathematical instruments, practice material and other articles which are necessary to enable the pupils to take full advantage of the education provided”.

The issue came under the spotlight after the Fortrose Academy Parent Council posted accounts online revealing that it had shelled out £15,000 to pay for items such as textbooks, chairs and safety goggles.

Ms Forbes said: “John Swinney was crystal clear about both the statutory duty on Highland Council to fund textbooks and equipment, as well as the resources available to Highland Council this year with an increase in overall budget of £20 million.

“It is as clear as day in the legislation and the accounts.

Fortrose Academy.
Fortrose Academy.

“Parents should not be funding the basic provisions of education because it exacerbates the attainment gap and means that those who can pay, get a better education.

“That utterly undermines the Scottish Government’s commitment to closing the attainment gap between rich and poor and the £4m that is going directly to Highland head teachers.

“There are clearly funding questions at Highland Council and I hope that the next administration at Highland Council, of whichever party, sorts out the school building and ensures there is adequate funding for textbooks.”

Black Isle councillor Craig Fraser previously said he was alarmed to hear of parents paying for basic resources. He said: “Whilst I full appreciate that many parents fundraise to help schools with extra-curricular activities like special trips away, it would be unusual if parents were required to fund basic provisions like textbooks.

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