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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 August 2007, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
Plans to close 11 island schools
Fiona Hyslop on a visit to the Western Isles
Fiona Hyslop said the situation should have been handled better
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is planning to close 11 schools in the Western Isles over the next six years.

The council said it had no choice because the curriculum was changing and pupil numbers were falling.

The news came as Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop visited Lewis to announce plans to fund three new teaching posts in the islands.

It is expected that parents in some areas will resist the plans, which will be discussed by councillors next week.

Public consultation

The Comhairle wants to close four primary schools next year: Craigston Primary in Barra, Staoinebrig school in South Uist, Cliasmol school in Harris and BrÓgar school in Lewis.

It also wants to close the seven junior secondary schools in which pupils get the first two years of secondary education.

Under the plans Bayble High School in Point, Lewis, and Daliburgh High School in South Uist, will close next year, with Sgoil nan Loch in Lewis and Paible High School in North Uist closing in 2009.

No decision has been made yet
Cllr M˛rag Munro

They would be followed by the closure of Shawbost School, Lional School and Back High School by 2013.

The chair of the Comhairle's education committee, M˛rag Munro, said the recommendations would go before the full council on Monday.

Speaking on BBC RŔidio nan GÓidheal's morning news programme, Aithris na Maidne, the councillor said: "No decision has been made yet. It is up to the members to make that decision.

"No final decision can be made until after the public consultation process."

The curriculum is changing to the extent that the Comhairle does not believe it can be delivered in the current schools.

Ms Munro added that the Comhairle had long had a policy based on the number of pupils in primary schools, and the distance they would have to travel to the next school.

Healthy numbers

Parents are worried about the proposed closures.

John Norman MacAuley, a parent from BrÓgar in Lewis, said on Aithris na Maidne that he did not know why the closure was being proposed.

"In the last three years, seven new pupils have started each year. That's a very healthy number," he said.

"I think it's better for children, especially at that age, to be in their own community, and they have that here.

"They get an excellent education in BrÓgar primary, and I can't see how it could be better. We're very satisfied anyway."

If we want to promote Gaelic in the schools, is that easier in the Gaelic-speaking communities themselves, or in Stornoway?
Alasdair Allan MSP

The Western Isles MSP Alasdair Allan said he was worried about the effect the proposed closures would have on communities and on the Gaelic language.

"I went to a small school, and that school was closed. It wasn't at all good for the community."

"If we want to promote Gaelic in the schools, is that easier in the Gaelic-speaking communities themselves, or in Stornoway?"

"There's strong support in the Western Isles for junior secondaries, and I'll be making the case for their retention."

Ms Hyslop said she was "very, very surprised" at the news.

She added that the situation should have been handled much better.

Sgoiltean Eileanach an Cunnart
23 Aug 07 |  Highlands and Islands

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