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

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Closing schools

And you thought the windfarms were contentious and divisive?

With the three schools in Lionel, Shawbost and Back lined up for closure because the Education Minister 'doesn't have a clue' abut the Curriculum for Excellence, and two of the decisions made on the casting vote of the Chair, the scene is set for an explosive Council meeting next week.

Who is right and who is wrong?

I'm not sure anyone knows the right answers any more, as the real issues have been lost in a battle to the death between PFI, budget cuts and a desire to do the best for the communities.

But just what is 'the best'?

Should education provision be judged on the distance pupils have to travel, or on the quality of teaching and the environment in which they learn? Are small schools inherently better than large schools? Should as wide a choice of classes as possible be the aim for every pupil?

The answer is not at one extreme or the other, but falls into the subjective grey areas where opinions differ and interpretations clash.

The Councillors have had to be very brave today in casting their votes: as either way there lie huge problems for the Council and the communities coming in the future.

One thing for certain, is that the matter is not closed, and I foresee education remaining a hot topic in the islands for coming years.

As someone who has faced similar decisions in the past, I still believe that a complete review of how education is to be delivered in the Western Isles was needed to encompass PFI and the role of the 2-year Secondaries, but that time has passed, and I only hope that the strategy that is now being followed actually produces the expected result.

Update 20/6: Council choose the worst possible building option for the new Nicolson Institute. Where are the employees cars to go now - onto the swamp to the East? With the Council building suffering serious settlement problems due to the depth of peat, we can look forward to major building problems and cost overruns.


Anonymous said...

Can someone show me where this strategy is written down in black and white.

Anonymous said...

You have to admire Kenny MacIver votes to close the other schools but too shit scarred to close Back

Anonymous said...

Please quantify "expected result" for one and all. There are 2 extremes, we win the lottery and create eutopia as an education authority and deliver S1-S3 to CFE standard or we deliver 5 new schools for under 52M ontime and prove every community wrong.
Both are pie in the sky and you know that.

Anonymous said...

Well said 7.17.

And can we also have the annual costs for the next 25 years of financing our schools through PFI - this may just allow us to have a clearer idea of the actual costs and actual reductions required elsewhere?

Anonymous said...

Breaking News

The New Nicholson is to be built on the Council Car Park what a bottle neck at 9 am each day!

Are there any brains in the Whitehouse?

What about out of town say up at the airport

CM said...

If some of the comments on this page are as a result of the education these individuals received in S2 rural schools then perhaps closure is long overdue.

As far as the new school is concerned, access can remain on Smith avenue making no difference to the traffic situation. I also dont think the school is going to encroach upon the council carpark. Perhaps people should see the plan before making comment.

Anonymous said...

Duplicitous, inconsistent, hidden agendas, secret deals, clueless and
out of touch are some of the milder terms used to describe the behaviour of some councillors who change their mind as often as they change their underwear. It must be hard to take for those councillors who have acted with honour and integrity throughout this whole sorry process.

Anonymous said...

11:19 AM

Hello pigeons, would you like to meet my cat?

Anonymous said...


Who rattled your cage? Are you the planner or a councillor?

The fact is the whole sordid affair is a farce. The closures are probably the best way to ensure better Secondary education, however how can they possibly go ahead until the new schoold is built - on that point the parents have a point.

What also parents have a point about is the lack of proper control of children at the NI particulalry in their freedom to roam the streets of Stornoway showing little or no respect to other pedestrians - particulalry older folk and mothers with prams/small chilsren who are forced often of pavements by the surge effect of school kids seeking junk food provision. The smoking - even drinking, in the streets and foul language between groups is an insult to the normal decency of Hebredian life.

So if you make pompus statements expect a forceful reply. It is absolutly the wrong place for the new school unless discipline is restored and the children are kept within the confines of their place of learning. Better still build a really good purpose campus on a vacant/unused site - and out of town.

Anonymous said...

Mad Biker says:

13:00 and 11:29

I would have thought an ideal location for the new school could be, either out of town (the middle of barvas moor springs to mind)or creed park.

Either way, the little gits, sorry darlings, wouldn't be able to get from school into town and back again during lunchtime and those that did would be easy prey for the truant officer(s) {;-))

This would resolve the issue about car parking in town and if we go for barvas moor, then we can show that we are not centralising everything in stornoway.

Every one wins (apart from the children who don't count any way). {;-))

As for the foul language, it's not the kids fault that they think every statement has to contain multiple profanities, obscenities and blasphemies. Just listen to most of the adults.

Yes I know I've missed out most of the capitalisation in my speel above. The joy of being educated is similar to that of knowing which knife and fork to use. It means that one can choose to break the rules with impunity. {;-))

Anonymous said...

With the school now to be so close to the Council offices does that mean all the staff there will have to go through a disclosure check?

Anonymous said...

Even a gold plated Nicolson will not compensate the people of the Westside for the loss of their secondary schools. The loss of secondary provision is far too high a price to pay for a new NI.
Sustainable communities my foot!
This will achieve what Leverhulme failed to do - get the people to move nearer Stornoway

Anonymous said...

As I know nothing of the Curriculum for Excellence (does anyone know?) I can't comment on that but I will comment on the
money/politics of it all:

The closing off Point, Back, Lionel, Leurbost & Shawbost S1 & S2's will not bring the Comhairle the massive savings they seek,
this is just the first round of cost saving's hidden by certain members of the Comhairle (which will
result in the savings needed to fund the PPP (or whatever it's called these day's!) next is rural
primary schools. With all these S1 & 2's out of the way there is plenty of space in these schools to accomadate, Aird, Knock, Tolsta, Tong, Cross, Airidhantuim, Barvas, Bragar, Carloway, Breasclete & Ballalan, with these schools closing Sandwick will be forced to close as the Stornoway Primary is now well below capacity.

Then there would be no need for a new West Side school, the master plan of the full new build Nicolson is now possible, £54 million would never provide a school at the Nicolson, West Side, Bayble & Balivanich. They will be lucky to build the Nicolson for £30 million!

The Loch a Tuath councillers should be embarrassed of themselves, voting to close all these schools (not Lionel
& Shawbost BTW) but wanting their own 'school' kept open. The tit for tat voting by the other councillors of "you voted to close mine so I'll vote to close yours is also a joke" yes that also includes the Convenor. Also where were the missing in action Ministers on 1 of the most important decisions made by the Comharile in years??

If Morag Munro & Angus Campbell were just a little more honest about their plans maybe the community would be a little more understanding. BTW, is it just a rumour or have I heard correctly that if enough savings are made
Phase 2 of Sir E Scott will be brought into the PPP project?

Also to the previous poster, the proposal to site the new Nicolson has been made by the fake company invented by the Comhairle because they havent found a private partner yet who want's anything to do with it, and not the Whitehouse employees!!

Anonymous said...

Ah well, all you can say is that we voted them in, and I daresay we'll vote them in again until they begin to die on the job.

Anonymous said...

The Council said that every school would be decided on its merits. The Councillors couldn't find one Secondary school in the Western Isles worth keeping. What does that say about the Education Chairman who has been presiding over these schools for years?
Nice to know he thinks Fiona Hyslop's team dosen't have a clue and acts in a bizarre manner. Kettle and pot come to mind.

Anonymous said...

cM 11.19am said...

If some of the comments on this page are as a result of the education these individuals received in S2 rural schools then perhaps closure is long overdue.

Anonymous said...

To 8:19 do you not mean she?

To 10:43 please expand on your comment? Ypu better than the country boys/gals?

Hmm, actually 10:43 you might be onto something here,: why don’t the Comhairle publish results on the rural S1/2 exam results v Nicolson S1/2 exam results? Because at the end off the day surly it’s the weans education that matter??

Anonymous said...

Change, I'm scared! Windfarms, school closures..... St Kilda???

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:28

"Ah well, all you can say is that we voted them in, and I daresay we'll vote them in again until they begin to die on the job."

That is so depressingly true. Instead of getting younger people in with fresh ideas (and ears), we vote the same old dinosaurs in again and again.

Anonymous said...

Build a new six year secondary at Balallan and close all the secondaries at Lionel, Bayble, Back, Shawbost, Leurbost AND Tarbert in Harris. Then close all the rural primaries to create area primary schools (especially remembering to close the small primary at Seilebost). All the savings made will disappear over the course of the next ten years as the populace continue to vote with their feet and leave thes shores.

Anonymous said...

The new school should be built well away from the town and certainly not at the current site, and the kids should be kept on the campus all day. It shouldn't be beyond the wit of man (though it probably is beyond the wit of councillors) to incorporate feeding facilities for all pupils, if they're so intent on centralising everything.

The town centre at lunchtimes can be a nightmare and the language often used in the streets (by adults as well sometimes) can't do much to raise us in the estimation of visitors.

Anonymous said...

1:54 pm

Hey Preacher! Leave them kids alone.