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

Monday, November 30, 2009

Schools funding debacle continues

The more I asked around, the less I was able to learn about the surprise decision to provide £3m of funding for a new primary school in Daliburgh.

Firstly, we should be glad to see that the poor state of the school has been recognised and that some funding has been provided to renew the building. All sums gratefully received.

But it is the background to this largesse that is the most intriguing and confused aspect of the whole affair.

As far as I can determine, the Council have (repeatedly) submitted a list of the schools that need rebuilding, together with associated estimated costs, to the Government to try to get a coherent strategy for rebuilding agreed. The decision to award funding to Daliburgh, and Daliburgh alone, came a bit out of the blue and leaves the Council in a real dilemma. The award is being described as 'political' rather than 'educational', with a desire to see as many Councils as possible benefit, rather than the educational issues of each being properly addressed.

With the consultation on the future of Daliburgh Secondary to be re-established and with the need to review the entire future of Secondary education across the islands, the award is being perceived to be a sign that the decision to close the Secondary has already been taken and that any consultation will be a sham.

You can understand why some people are thinking that, even though I genuinely don't think that that is the case.

But the real problem is: just how will the Council fund the other £3m of building costs?

All capital expenditure is already (over) committed to the new schools project and the budget cuts are going to place further strain on resources. The one option is to use 'prudential borrowing' or HP as the rest of us know it, but that then committs another chunk of the Education Department budget for the subsequent 25 years, allowing even less flexibility.

The Chair of Education is already talking about adding Daliburgh Primary onto the new schools project, obviously to see if there are some economies of scale that can be achieved. That makes sense from her budget viewpoint, but just means that another big piece of work is being passed off-island when it could be potentially done by some of the local contractors and provide more local work.

The Council have been placed on the horns of an educational and financial dilemma by the Government, and I'm not sure how they are going to get out of it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was part of the Sgoil Dalabrog campaign when there was a campaign to develop both Daliburgh and Paible as the centers for sixth year education instead of a single location in Lionaclete.

In the event, the decision was for a single central facility which, in retrospect, was probably the right choice. However, what was curious was that those most vociferous in support of Lionaclete then mounted a campaign to save their own local feeder schools which were then, as a consequence of the building of lionaclete, scheduled to close; Lochboisdale, Garrynamonie, etc.

Given the benefit of the passage of time it is noteworthy that even if these schools had been allowed to remain open there are now not enough children in the community to give them a viable school roll.

There were 27 kids going to Daliburgh from my township when I left school, today, 35 years later, there are 3.

Leaving the politics aside, there is now an opportunity to use the fabric of the existing building to integrate the school more fully into the community, much in the same way that lionaclete has done in Benbecula.

It is a poor reflection on the petty and inept politicking of two former local councillors that the chance to have a new swimming pool at the school was lost. Even more shameful was that the allocated finance, an insurance payout, was not even used for the benefit of the school.

Lets hope that at least this time we can rise above the morass and work for the long term benefit of the wider community.