Council “tick box” consultation slammed by north Skye parents

BY MICHAEL RUSSELL

A recommendation by Highland Council’s director of care and learning to close three schools in north Skye was savaged by local parents this week.

On Monday, Bill Alexander published a paper recommending the closure of primary schools at Edinbane, Struan and Knockbreck and the construction of the new school at Dunvegan at a cost of £14.46 million.

The council say there will be a number of social and educational benefits for children, given the low rolls in the three schools earmarked for closure. Mr Alexander’s paper is due to go before the education, children and adult services committee on 14th January.

However, Tim Spencer, a member of Edinbane Parent Council, took issue with many of the reasons for closure cited by Mr Alexander.

The council’s own policy that children should not travel for more than 30 minutes has been flouted on this occasion, he said. Mr Alexander’s paper confirms travel times of at least 40 minutes each way, and that long school journeys are common in the Highlands.

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Council “do not inspire confidence”, said parent Tim Spencer

Mr Spencer said: “The council seek the lowest common denominator i.e. they excuse the high travel times for pupils by quoting examples of where this already happens in the Highlands. It does not inspire confidence in officials when they take the attitude that poor situations should be replicated simply because they already exist elsewhere. The council should be seeking to improve matters for our children, not making them worse. It also has the insidious effect that the more they get away with these type of proposals, the more such ‘evidence’ they can produce.”

Edinbane nursery has been mothballed for the last two years, and parents will be expected to take their children to Dunvegan if the education committee approve the plans.

Mother-of-three Clare Stones from Ullinish, near Struan said the council’s consultation on the issue was “nothing more than an expensive paper exercise” and that their intention all along was to close the schools.

A longer version of this article can be read in this week’s West Highland Free Press