Coun­cil­lor’s shock over plan to moth­ball vil­lage pri­mary school

The Oban Times - - News - EL­LIE FORBES eforbes@oban­

PAR­ENTS and the High­land Coun­cil have agreed to moth­ball Roy Bridge Pri­mary School.

But the de­ci­sion has shocked a lo­cal coun­cil­lor who has pre­vi­ously fought to keep the school open.

Mem­bers of Roy Bridge Par­ent Coun­cil met Norma Young, care and learn­ing man­ager for High­land Coun­cil, on March 13 when the de­ci­sion was made. It was de­cided the re­main­ing three pupils on the school roll would of­fi­cially trans­fer to Spean Bridge Pri­mary School af­ter the Easter hol­i­days.

As­so­ciate head teacher at both Spean Bridge and Roy Bridge pri­mary schools Kate MacGil­livray said, in the mean­time, the chil­dren will ‘con­tinue to at­tend Spean Bridge Pri­mary un­of­fi­cially as they have been do­ing over the past few weeks’.

She said: ‘Roy Bridge Pri­mary School will then be moth­balled for the fol­low­ing year which will al­low it to be re-opened should cir­cum­stances change. At the end of the 12 months, the au­thor­ity would pro­ceed to­wards per­ma­nent clo­sure of the school, a process that takes a fur­ther year.’

A cam­paign to stop the clo­sure of the school was started some years ago when par­ents mounted what was de­scribed by one Spean Bridge res­i­dent as a ‘fierce and strong’ strug­gle to keep the school open.

But as pupil num­bers at the school dwin­dled, so did the cam­paign.

Coun­cil­lor for Caol and Mal­laig Al­lan Hen­der­son told the

Lochaber Times the news, which he first heard on Mon­day, came as a shock.

He said: ‘I knew that num­bers of chil­dren at­tend­ing and par­ents sup­port­ive of send­ing chil­dren to Roy Bridge school had dwin­dled over the past year, but have had no of­fi­cial word that any moth­balling, which is gen­er­ally a eu­phemism for clo­sure, was im­mi­nent.’

Mr Hen­der­son, who was closely in­volved with the ac­tion group which fought to keep Roy Bridge school open, said it was ‘dis­ap­point­ing’ this is now the case.

He said: ‘If the school is to be moth­balled then, as a lo­cal coun­cil­lor and a stout de­fender of small ru­ral schools, I am dis­mayed and sur­prised that no of­fi­cial word has been forth­com­ing. I have been work­ing closely with of­fi­cials on all the dif­fer­ent changes for schools with new timeta­bles and clus­ter heads. I hope this has not been done de­lib­er­ately dur­ing the elec­tion pe­riod so that mount­ing a cam­paign to save it is more dif­fi­cult.’

The Lochaber Times asked the High­land Coun­cil if there are plans to close the school in the next few years and a spokesper­son re­sponded: ‘ There are no plans as moth­balling is a for­mal process.’

The coun­cil was also asked how much money would be saved by tak­ing this ac­tion but a spokesper­son said: ‘The moth­balling is not around money and was at the in­vi­ta­tion of the par­ents.’

The spokesper­son added: ‘The school would have an al­lo­ca­tion of one teacher and no staff will lose their post.’

Ms MacGil­livray added: ‘As the school is be­ing moth­balled, all pupils from the Roy Bridge catch­ment area are now en­ti­tled to free school trans­port to Spean Bridge Pri­mary and the au­thor­ity is in the process of en­sur­ing this is in place for the start of next term.

‘Par­ents will be no­ti­fied of trans­port ar­range­ments be­fore the Easter hol­i­days.’

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