Angry Ullapool parents have demanded Highland Council take action over the “scandalous conditions” at the local nursery, where damp is so bad that pictures won’t stay on the walls.
Parents have called for the action after seeing children as young as three spending over 15 hours a week inside a damp-infested nursery.
The walls at Ullapool Primary School Nursery are said to be so damp that children’s pictures cannot be pinned up because blue tack will not stick due the moisture. When tacks are used they pierce through the sagging wall surface.
A report from an unannounced visit by the Care Inspectorate earlier in the summer is expected to confirm that the classroom and toilet facilities are completely unfit for purpose.
One parent, who spoke to the West Highland Free Press, said they were so concerned about the structure that they were considering removing their children from the nursery altogether.
There are around 45 pre-school children, aged between three and five, who attend nursery classes in English and Gaelic at the portable building nursery accommodation beside Ullapool Primary School.
Worried parents, as well as the Ullapool Primary School Parent Council, have written to Highland Council urging them to take urgent action. The parents have called on the local authority to provide new permanent facilities or to put new, modern, modular structures in place before the new school term begins in August.
Rev Alasdair Macleod, secretary of the parent council and a father of two, said he had been lobbying the Highland Council for the past year.
Mr Macleod said: “The nursery accommodation building was supposed to be temporary, but now over 30 years later it is completely rotten to the core and something has to be done.
“We know that Highland Council is short on money, but this is absolutely disgraceful. It is immoral that one of the most vulnerable groups in our society are being neglected due to budget priorities within the council.
“The World Health Organisation recommends that parents keep babies and children away from damp and mould, but Highland Council expects us to send our kids into these scandalous conditions.”
He added: “What parent in their right mind would want to send their precious three-year-old into a building like this to breathe in dampness spores?
“It comes as no surprise that some folk are starting to consider pulling their wee ones out of the nursery if nothing is done before the start of term. It really is time for Highland Council to get a grip and sort this mess out.”
Alan Sears, chairperson of the Parent Council and a father of four, said: “It is intolerable that our youngest and most vulnerable children will be forced to use this wholly-inadequate structure for yet another term.
“The health and wellbeing of our children has to be the number one concern and must always be put before shuffling budgets and red tape.”
Geraldine Murray, another worried parent whose daughter is due to start nursery in August, said: “I’m having to seriously reconsider whether to send her at all.
“She’s a happy, healthy child and I know the staff will do all they can to minimise exposure to damp spores with lots of outdoor play but once the winter weather comes how long will it be before she’s possibly suffering respiratory problems because of the state of the building?”
The nursery is hosted in temporary wooden buildings in the grounds of Ullapool Primary School on the village’s Quay Street. The structure was erected in the early 1980s as a temporary fix.
A report which went before Highland Council’s Education, Children and Adult Services Committee in May named Ullapool on a list of 17 primary schools which should be considered for future investment.
In terms of its condition the school campus is ranked a favourable 26th out of 178 in the Highland primary school estate — but the problems lie with the state of the nursery.
That same report made no promises as to what level of upgrade schools might be in line for, or if any work would be carried out.
In response this week a Highland Council spokesperson said: “Parents have made representations to the council regarding nursery accommodation at Ullapool. Our area education manager has requested a condition report be prepared for consideration.”