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Committee Agrees Review Of Highland School Estate

18th January 2010

The Highland Council's Education Culture and Sport Committee has agreed to review its school estate, which includes 183 primary schools; 29 secondary schools and 3 special schools.

The review aims to improve education provision for Highland pupils by:-

maximising opportunities for moving pupils from poor to better quality school buildings;

making most efficient use of available funding; and

addressing issues relating to demographic change.

It will take account of the educational impact of any change; community impact of any change; distance from one school to another in any change relating to amalgamation; distance from the furthest point of catchment areas to proposed receiving school in any amalgamation proposal; travel time; current and projected school roll; economic impact; operational capacity of schools under review; percentage occupancy of schools under review; and transport.

Because of the enormity of the task, an external team will be engaged to prepare the initial proposals; the statutory consultation process; and the drawing up and reporting of recommendations for Members' consideration.

Members were advised that since 2003, the number of primary school pupils has fallen from 18,000 to 16,820. In the secondary sector the figures have remained relatively static over the same period. There are significant numbers of schools with very low percentage occupancy rates.

Another concern is the condition of many schools. 25% of the category "C" schools in Scotland - those deemed to be in a poor condition - are in Highland. These total 112 schools.

Councillor Bill Fernie, Chairman of the Education Culture and Sport Committee, noted that the Scottish Government has committed to provide 66% of the funding required to address the fabric deficiencies at Wick High School. However, the Council had been unsuccessful in its most recent bid for a funding contribution for the replacement of primary schools in the Fort William and East Ross areas.

He said: "At a time of diminishing funding in the public sector, it is difficult to see how the fabric and suitability improvements required in the Highlands can be addressed either through Government resources or through the Council's revenue, maintenance and capital expenditure programmes.

"This major review is crucial in providing better provision for our pupils and staff and get the best return for our spending."

Terms of reference for the review will be agreed by the committee later in the year.


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