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The truths they don't want you to read....

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A new school

Nicolson InstituteLet me start by saying that I have a client who may have a financial interest in this matter, which is why I haven't blogged about it before.

The Herald reports the recent Education Committee meeting which decided that a rebuild was out of the question for a number of reasons, and that a new build elsewhere in the town was appropriate.

I've been saying this for quite some time, and it illustrates the need for flexibility in the planning of schools to react to all the different matters that affect the education provision.

My first concern about the site occurred when the planning application for flats at the old auction mart site came in front of the Comhairle and had to be refused as it was too close to the gas works on Sandwick Road.

At that time, I pointed out that a huge area of Stornoway was sterilised for development as a result of the advice from the HSE. I specifically warned the Education and Housing Departments of the implications for their departments, but the PFI project was so advanced (sic) that no changes to the proposals were possible - according to the then Government.

I believe the final straws were the cost of preserving the listed façade of the school together with the safety concerns around rebuilding the entire school on a small site around 800 pupils whilst still trying to deliver classes.

This is now an opportunity to review the entire educational provision in the Broadbay area, and ensure that the plans for the next 30 years allow the flexibility to react to population growth or decrease.

In other words, scrap the PFI plans; consolidate schools; and deliver a much higher quality education in a much higher quality school for a larger number of pupils on a greenfield site.

Yes, that will involve busing more pupils to and from school (and to and from the sports facilities), but if the quality and range of education is higher, how can parents complain?


Anonymous said...

Um, wouldn't a better option (to start with) be to move the gasworks to somewhere out of town? The short-term cost and inconvenience then frees up a whole load of options.

Plus having a gas works near the middle of the largest town in the Outer Hebrides never struck me as a wise move anyway.

Anonymous said...

Now Angus

You know the way we feel about the excellent provision in the Loch A' Tuath area, and our arguments are well justified when you look at current and projected pupil numbers. I fear the Comhairle are going to be caught out with the proposed large-scale housing developments, and unless this is taken into consideration, they may well decide to close schools just now, but then realise in three or four years that they have to reopen them again. What cost will that be? We need the proper infrastructure to accommodate the people. And not just that, but the quality of education (HMI inspections speak for themselves) and the building fabric are second to none - not even a new secondary in the town, assuming it's built within our lifetime! As you well know, a 3-year secondary provision in Back is fully justified.

Angus said...

There is a long standing proposal to move the gasworks to Arnish, which would solve the problem, but the Council taxpayers would pick up virtually the entire cost. This should have happened (I understand) in the early 1990's, but some cack-handed negotiations by a certain Councillor meant it never came to fruition.

Angus said...

The review must encompass the possibility of increasing some school sizes, not simply centralising everything.

But, you know as well as I do, that this will be very complex to ensure that any new school leaves sufficient capacity for possible pupil growth throughout the entire school estate, whilst maximising the benefits to the pupils.

Anonymous said...

From the Stornoway Gazette:

"Director of Education Murdo Macleod was invited to the meeting but declined the offer."

"Both the MSP Alasdair Allan and the MP Angus Macneil were present at the meeting..."

Uh huh...!

Anonymous said...

So ABM and AA are doing what they are paid for, turning up for meetings! Give them a gold star.
Do you count this as an achievement that they bothered to turn up??!! So what did they bring to the party apart from a proposal to keep everything open, regardless of the cost, as that buys votes.
You are so easily pleased.

Anonymous said...

SSU, that they turned up was not the point. Trust you not to see beyond the surface! You are so easily displeased.

Anonymous said...

PPP/PFI schemes suck.

As the taxpayer may soon find out...

Anonymous said...


Yes, PFI schemes are ideal for schools too.