“Scandalous” Skye school in need of replacement

BY KEITH MACKENZIE

A new school is the only answer to the “scandalous” conditions currently experienced at Broadford Primary, a Skye councillor has claimed.

Drew Millar has called on Highland Council to consider building a new school in the south Skye village, branding the current facilities in Broadford as “not fit for purpose”.

The Skye councillor spoke out last Wednesday at a meeting of the council’s education, children and adult services committee.

Councillor Millar said he had been persuaded of the strength of Broadford’s case during a visit to the school last year.

“I wasn’t aware of just how bad things were,” he said. “They have buckets in the classrooms to collect water from the leaking roof. In this day and age that is scandalous.

“It can’t be good for the morale of the teachers or pupils to have to put up with that every day.”

Councillor Millar noted that a review of schools in north Skye had recommended closure of some small primaries, with a new facility to be built in Dunvegan.

But he said that there was no prospect of a merger providing a solution in Broadford. “It is a main centre. It can’t be amalgamated with anywhere else. We really need to invest in that school,” he added.

The school in Broadford was built in 1975 — although even in its early days there were concerns it was too small.

For decades demountable huts have been needed to accommodate additional capacity, and the 94-pupil school has no gym or library facilities.

A paper which went before the council’s education committee last year suggested Broadford was one of a list of Highland schools which should be considered for future investment. With regard to the state of the buildings and the suitability of facilities, the council ranked Broadford 166th out of 178 Highland schools.

Councillor Millar said that although locally funds would be committed for new schools at Dunvegan and an all-Gaelic primary in Portree, these projects should not hinder the case for Broadford.

“There are new projects right across the Highlands. There’s a new 3-18 campus in Tain and there’s also a major project at Wick.

“But as far as Broadford is concerned the only real solution is a new school.”

Based on the cost of similar projects elsewhere, a new school in Broadford would be likely to cost in the region of £10 million. Councillor Millar has asked Robert Campbell, the council’s estate strategy manager, and Norma Young, the area education manager, to examine what the options might be for Broadford.

If pressure was applied, he said, it was realistic that plans for a new school could come under consideration within two years.

Former LidDem councillor Millar recently regained a seat on the education committee after forming a new Highland Alliance group alongside four other breakaway councillors.