No schools close

The Oban Times - - Front Page - SANDY NEIL eforbes@oban­

AR­GYLL and Bute Coun­cil has pledged not to close any of its pri­mary schools – in­clud­ing the small­est ru­ral ones – de­spite pupil rolls con­tin­u­ing to fall. Full story

THERE are no plans to close any pri­mary schools in the re­gion, Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil has con­firmed, fol­low­ing a re­port into pupil num­bers.

The study of Oban, Lorn and the Isles’ 26 pri­mary schools, which vary in size from five pupils in Kilchat­tan to 318 at Rock­field in Oban, re­vealed pupil rolls rose by an av­er­age of 10 per cent over the five years be­tween 2012 and 2017.

How­ever, some have ex­pe­ri­enced ‘sig­nif­i­cant falls’, the re­port stated, while oth­ers saw ‘ very large in­creases’.

The steep­est de­cline was felt at Coll’s Ari­nagour Pri­mary School, which dropped 33 per cent from 27 to 18 pupils, fol­lowed by Bar­cal­dine’s fall by 53 per cent from 17 to eight. Lu­ing also de­creased 33 per cent from 12 to eight, Eas­dale fell 25 per cent from 28 to 21, and Bunes­san re­duced in size by 23 per cent from 44 to 34.

The small­est pupil rolls were recorded at Ulva (10), Lochdon­head (nine), Kilchre­nan (nine), Bar­cal­dine (eight), Lis­more (eight), Lu­ing (eight), and Kilchat­tan (five). Over­all, Mull’s pri­mary school roll has re­mained ‘steady’, the re­port added, but there are ‘sig­nif­i­cant falls’ in Der­vaig, down 21 per cent from 24 to 19 pupils, and Lochdon­head, which fell 31 per cent from 13 to nine.

The Oban Times asked Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil what plans it has to re­verse the schools’ de­clin­ing pupil num­bers, and if it was con­sid­er­ing any clo­sures. A spokesper­son re­sponded: ‘The coun­cil has no plans to close any schools in Ar­gyll and Bute.

‘The coun­cil is com­mit­ted to en­cour­ag­ing eco­nomic growth and re­gen­er­a­tion in the area. We want to make Ar­gyll and Bute a place peo­ple choose to live, learn, work and do busi­ness. Our as­pi­ra­tion is to en­sure that Ar­gyll and Bute is the best place in Scot­land for our chil­dren to grow.’

Other pri­mary school rolls rose dra­mat­i­cally over the same five-year pe­riod. Achaleven is up 200 per cent from four to 12, Iona went up 171 per cent from seven to 19, and the larger pri­maries are also grow­ing: St Columba’s rose by 18 per cent from 81 to 96, Lochnell by 23 per cent from 101 to 124, Park by six per cent from 230 to 245, with, the largest, Rock­field up seven per cent from 298 to 318.

Wel­com­ing these rises in pupils num­bers, and at­tribut­ing them to pop­u­la­tion growth, Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil said it did not ex­pect any of these schools to reach ca­pac­ity in the near fu­ture. It stated Lochnell’s ca­pac­ity stands at 154, Park’s at 330, Rock­field’s at 590, and St Columba’s at 198.

A spokesper­son added: ‘ We carry out reg­u­lar re­views of our school rolls and fu­ture pupil num­bers are con­sid­ered on the ba­sis of the num­ber of births in the area and the pos­si­ble im­pact of net mi­gra­tion.’

Gaelic is in­creas­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, with all the area’s Gaelic pri­mary schools grow­ing pupil num­bers: Rock­field is up 37 per cent from 37 to 51, Tiree up 38 per cent from 21 to 29, Salen up 41 per cent from 32 to 45, and Strath of Ap­pin Gaelic Pri­mary School up 25 per cent from four to five.

Ar­gyll and Bute Coun­cil said it was com­mit­ted to sup­port­ing and de­vel­op­ing Gaelic, and to ‘en­cour­ag­ing fam­i­lies to move to our beau­ti­ful area, en­cour­age school leavers to re­main here; and en­cour­age stu­dents to move to the area to study and then re­main here to work. We want to en­sure that Ar­gyll and Bute is the best place in Scot­land for chil­dren to grow up’.

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