Councillor’s shock over plan to mothball village primary school
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.’