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Last Updated: Tuesday, 28 August 2007, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Council shelves school closures
Fiona Hyslop with pupils
Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop visited the area last week
Councillors in the Western Isles are to look at the future for all 40 schools in the islands after shelving plans to close 11 of them.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's education committee voted to defer an original cuts package.

The council leadership rushed together a new compromise proposal for Monday night's meeting of the full council.

It means a full review of all the council schools to be completed by March 2009.

However, it also means the closure of the seven small secondary schools - Bayble, Sgoil nan Loch, Shawbost, Lionel, Back, Paible and Daliburgh - will also go out to consultation with decisions due on their future within the lifetime of the new administration.

Council leaders will also to seek urgent consultation with Scottish ministers to discuss the way forward.

However, Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop came in for criticism during the four-and-a-half hour debate.

The intervention of the SNP MSP, who wrote to councillors before the meeting, was described by one member as "extraordinary interference".

The proposals to close four primary schools and all the islands' junior secondaries, where pupils get the first two years of secondary education, had angered parents and community leaders.

A row broke out between councillors and Ms Hyslop after she learned of the proposals on a visit to Stornoway last week.

Lack of cash

The council's leadership had claimed that the new three-year national curriculum made the seven junior secondary schools redundant.

That argument was rejected by the education secretary.

However, council education chairwoman Morag Munro said the proposals were down to declining school rolls, a lack of cash to build new schools and deteriorating buildings.

The committee decided to defer a decision, seek talks with the Scottish Executive about money and the national curriculum, and to look at the viability of all the island schools.

Ms Munro said the decision was a bad day for education in the islands.


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SEE ALSO
Disagreement over school closures
24 Aug 07 |  Highlands and Islands
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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