Call for parents to be balloted on new Portree Gaelic Primary

A secret ballot of parents should take place before further work is carried out on a planned new all-Gaelic primary school in Portree, according to the area’s community council.

Members of the Portree and Braes Community Council, at their March meeting, gave their unanimous backing to a motion calling on Highland Council to carry out the vote. The community council argue that all parents in the catchment area, with children under the age of 10, should now be asked if they want a separate Gaelic school.

Members say the consultation surrounding the planned £13 million development — to be built in tandem with a new hostel for Portree High School — is flawed, as it was carried out six years ago.

Community council secretary Catriona Leslie believes a fresh vote is needed to clarify the level of parental support for the school, with many of the parents who originally backed the project no longer having children of primary-school age.

Mrs Leslie, who has criticised the proposal as being too costly and potentially divisive, said she was unsure as to whether the council would agree to the request.

“If you don’t ask you don’t get,” she added. “We are all in favour of Gaelic, but not to split a very successful primary school in two.”

Work on the hostel site has already started, but Mrs Leslie believed the Gaelic-school project could still be halted, if enough opposition was demonstrated over the next two months.

Mrs Leslie expressed concerns that a Gaelic school stakeholders’ reference group — on which Portree and Braes Community Council has two members — had met only once since being set up last year.

Later this month Highland Council will hold a meeting for parents at which they will provide an update on the new school, and matters in relation to the existing Portree Primary.

Approval for the new all-Gaelic school was first granted in 2008, though at the time Highland Council did not commit to funding it. In December last year the Scottish Government pledged £3 million over two years to help the local authority — who have since moved the project up their list of capital spending priorities — pay for the scheme. Construction is due to begin in 2015.

Currently Portree’s existing primary has a roll of 261 pupils, of whom 99 are educated through the medium of Gaelic.

The progress meeting for Portree parents takes place on Wednesday 23rd April at 7pm in Portree High School.

Editorial 17.4.2013