Highland Council consultants have made it quite clear that three schools in north Skye should be closed and a new one built to take their place, according to the chairwoman of one of the affected parent councils.
Frances MacLean’s comments came following an invite-only meeting held in Edinbane earlier this month which was organised by the consultants, Caledonian Economics. As well as the Edinbane school, the council want to close Knockbreck and Struan primaries.
“The meeting was supposed to be to gather our views and answer our questions,” Mrs MacLean added. “However, CalEc made it quite clear they are convinced that our children and our communities will benefit by having a new ‘community-hub’ school in Dunvegan and closing the other schools.
“They insist that this is not a cost-cutting exercise, and that no financial savings will be made. They say that ‘community development’ issues will be dealt with during the statutory consultation phase. They believe there is no proven link between the economic growth/sustainability of a community and the presence of a primary school.”
According to Mrs Maclean, CalEc have refused to look at the reasons why many children who live in the Edinbane catchment area go to school in Portree.
She added: “They think that a new school will be a magnet to families in the Edinbane catchment, and that all children will go to Dunvegan. They do not acknowledge that many children may travel in the other direction (MacDiarmid/Portree) especially if parents are working in Portree, even though the evidence is that this is happening already.”
Regarding the claim that there is no link between the presence of a primary school and the economic fortunes of the community, area education manager Norma Young said: “Across the Highlands the population of some settlements is growing and the population of some settlements is shrinking and/or ageing. The council’s planning and development service continually monitors the population and age profiles of settlements across the Highlands and seeks to understand the underlying causes.
“Whilst there may be a minor economic impact where, for example, a cleaner or cook lives locally, they have found no clear correlation between economic activity, population trends and the presence of a primary school within a settlement, provided there is a primary school within reasonable travelling distance of the settlement.”
However, despite repeated requests for further information, Ms Young would not say why Caledonian Economics were not looking into the reasons for Edinbane children attending Portree Primary, or how many children from the three closure-threatened schools would attend a new school in Dunvegan.
Caledonian Economics has written a survey questionnaire about their proposals. They are inviting responses by Friday 28th March. Got to www.surveymonkey.com/s/KD3KL9S to complete the questionnaire.