No schools close
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’.