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No chance of new schools for years after 'devastating' Scottish Government funding blow

By Scott Maclennan

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Hopes for a new Beauly Primary are dwindling.
Hopes for a new Beauly Primary are dwindling.

News the Highlands missed out on longed-for fundingfor new buildings for some schools has left local communities “devastated” as calls mount for a Plan B from the local authority.

Highland Council was depending on Learning Estate Investment Programme (LEIP) funding to deliver new schools for St Clements, Park, Beauly and Dunvegan Primaries.

But the local authority revealed that the three bids it submitted were not selected despite them meeting the selection criteria after a “ministerial review” – a third for Tornagrain is likely to go ahead through developer contributions.

In September, the council controversially tore up the budgets for 10 schools, including those that bid for LEIP cash while still claiming to be “committed” to their construction.

What is certain is the council does not believe the new schools are possible within the next three years after revealing that "no further design work will be carried out on the Beauly Primary, Culloden Academy, Dunvegan Primary and Park Primary projects."

Councillor Helen Crawford has been campaigning for Beauly Primary School and said: “I am desperately sad for the communities across Highland that had pinned their last hopes to the LEIP funding announcement.

“Education has always mattered to Highlanders. We value it and know it’s a route out of poverty. I represent Aird and Loch Ness and know first hand how folk have been left in the dark about what’s now going to happen at Beauly Primary School and Charleston Academy.

“I can only imagine the angst for those who rely on the specialist support provided at St Clements.

“I’ve repeatedly called for a Plan B for these communities for months now and nothing has been forthcoming. If significant funding isn’t forthcoming, Highland council has to start thinking innovatively, because these crumbling schools are only going to deteriorate further.

“Engage with the communities, think innovatively and come up with solutions. Doing nothing is not an option when it comes to educating our kids.”

Catherine Rait, a parent at Beauly Primary said: “We are of course devastated about the news that no Highland Schools were successful in their bid for LEIP funding but especially Beauly, which is in such a terrible state but let’s be honest with the discovery of RAAC and that money needs to be found to sort that, I thought this would be the outcome.

“Highland Council can now use the Scottish Government as the reason the schools will not be built but the responsibility still lies with the council and we will continue to fight for a better school for our children and in the interim better conditions. We look forward to seeing what their plan is.

“As for the overall improvement with the state of schools, yes the proportion of schools in the good category may well be 90.7 per cent but, 37 per cent of Highland schools are rated C poor conditions, which is 74 schools and 10,325 pupils – that is from the chair of property and housing on June 29.”

“The Scottish Government cannot have it both ways, they want the credit for the improvement from 61% to 90.7% but they say the council has the responsibility for the improvement of schools or in our case the lack of.

“They can blame each other and political parties and war and covid but the fact is our children have been let down by both the Highland Council and the Scottish Government.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This third phase supports a priority project in those local authorities who have not thus far benefitted from LEIP and, therefore, treats all councils fairly and equitably.

“The Highland Council received financial support from Phase 1 and 2 of LEIP to support the construction new replacement schools for the Tain 3-18 Campus, Broadford Primary School and Nairn Academy.

“The proportion of schools in “good” or 'satisfactory' condition in Scotland has increased from 61% in April 2007 to 90.7% in April 2023, and LEIP investment will build on this progress.”

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