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Last Updated: Friday, 24 August 2007, 11:48 GMT 12:48 UK
Disagreement over school closures
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar
The comhairle will debate the proposals on Monday
Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop has criticised Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) over plans to close 11 island schools.

The news came to light as Ms Hyslop was visiting Lewis on Thursday to announce funding for three more teaching posts in the islands.

The comhairle said the current schools were not suitable for the changing curriculum.

But Ms Hyslop did not agree and said the news had come as a surprise to her.

Junior Secondaries

The comhairle said it could not deliver the new curriculum in the schools as they are.

It is proposing to close the seven junior secondary schools in the islands, so that pupils receive all their high school education in one place rather than moving to senior secondary in the third year.

There are also plans to close four primary schools.

What we want to do is to ensure that every child has the best possible opportunities, and we do not agree that that can be done in the small schools
Cllr M˛rag Munro

Ms Hyslop said that she saw no reason why the new curriculum could not be taught in the current schools, and that it should not be used as an excuse to close schools.

Under the plans, Bayble High School in Point, Lewis, and Daliburgh High School in South Uist would close next year, along with the four primary schools - Craigston in Barra, Staoinebrig in South Uist, Cliasmol in Harris and BrÓgar in Lewis.

Then Sgoil nan Loch in Lewis and Paible High School in North Uist would close in 2009.

They would be followed by Siabost, Lionail, and Back High Schools, with the final closure in 2013.

The proposals will go before the full council on Monday.

Best opportunities

The chair of the comhairle's Education Committee, M˛rag Munro, said they had no other choice if they were to be able to deliver the best education possible under the new curriculum.

Speaking on BBC RŔidio nan GÓidheal's morning news programme Aithris na Maidne, she said:

"We couldn't provide those children with the same education as we could if they were in a bigger High School."

"We couldn't provide them with business education, and we couldn't give them as broad a choice of courses for example."

"What we want to do is to ensure that every child has the best possible opportunities, and we do not agree that that can be done in the small schools," said Cllr Munro.

Expansion

Not every councillor is of the same opinion however.

Among them is West Side and Ness councillor Iain Morrison.

Also speaking on Aithris na Maidne, he said: "Lionail and Siabost are well ahead of any school in the Western Isles according to national statistics."

"Why are we taking children out of a school that's doing well, and putting them into a school that's not doing so well?"

Ness councillor Iain MacAoidh wants to expand the school in his ward, rather than close it.

"We don't want to close it, what we want is for it to be expanded to cover third year as well."

"That's what the school board and the parents want."

But the Scottish Executive said that would not make sense, as there was no educational reason for expanding the Junior Secondaries to third year.

A spokeswoman said that the position of the education secretary was that the new Curriculum for Excellence could be delivered in the junior secondaries as they are.

Though the new curriculum brings the first three years of high school together, the executive said that would not be a problem given proper co-operation between the junior secondaries and the high schools to which pupils would go for third year upwards in Stornoway and in Lionacleit.

She said that the issue may need "more creative handling" from the comhairle.




SEE ALSO
Eas-aonta mu dh¨nadh sgoiltean
24 Aug 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Plans to close 11 island schools
23 Aug 07 |  Highlands and Islands

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