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Changing face of north schooling

19 February 10 07:54 GMT

Where children go to school in the Highlands and Islands is poised to change over the next 20 years.

Almost half the schools on the Western Isles could be closed by 2018 under plans by the local authority.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar officials have estimated that the move will save £2m-a-year.

The comhairle has also embarked on a £110m schools building project which represents the single largest construction scheme to be undertaken by the authority.

Highland Council is also reviewing its school estate while pushing ahead with plans to build new schools.

Here, the BBC Scotland news website looks at what is planned for school buildings in the Highlands and Western Isles.

FALLING ROLLS

Falling rolls and ageing buildings are among the reasons behind the shake-up of Highland Council and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's school estates.

Official statistics show numbers of pupils in both regions fell steadily between 2000 and 2008.

On the Western Isles, numbers declined from 4,216 to 3,711. In the Highlands, there were 33,588 pupils in 2000 but 31,860 by 2008.

The age of buildings is a major factor.

Highland Council has 183 primaries, 29 secondary schools and three special schools.

Of primary schools, 26% were built before 1900 and 24% between 1901 and 1969.

More than 25% of the region's primary school buildings have been deemed to be in a poor condition.

Of Highland Council secondary schools, 7% were constructed before 1900 and 53% between 1901 and 1969.

CLOSURE AND MERGER

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has proposed to shut four junior secondary schools and 14 primaries over a period of eight years.

Pupils attending schools that are eventually closed will be sent to the next nearest school.

The primaries involved are Balallan (school roll 27), Bernera (18), Bragar (33), Carloway (30), Cross (22), Eoligarry (25), Eriskay (15), Lochmaddy (8), Sandwick (47), Scalpay (27), Shelibost (13), Stoneybridge (10), Tong (55) and Tolsta (49).

The junior secondary schools are Dailburgh (107), Lionel (113), Paible (87) and Shawbost (81).

Scalpay, which could lose its primary by 2012, was last July at the centre of a councillor's calls for government action to regenerate peripheral areas of the Western Isles after it emerged that there were no children under the age of seven on the island.

Catherine Macdonald said a lack of jobs and affordable housing was to blame.

NEW SCHOOLS

Last summer, tenders were sought to construct and maintain five new buildings on the Western Isles.

They include a secondary school to replace the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway on Lewis.

The Western Isles Schools Project represents the single largest construction scheme to be undertaken by the islands council.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar divided the tenders into a £60m contract to design and build the schools and a £50m deal to maintain them.

The comhairle set up organisation Sgoiltean Ura LLP to manage the overall schools project.

Highland also has plans for a new primary at Milton of Leys, near Inverness, and to replace Aviemore and Lochaline primaries.

Conon Bridge and Maryburgh primaries are to be combined on the same site at Conon Bridge, while major redevelopments have been proposed for Lochaber and Plockton high schools.

The Scottish government has offered to fund 66% of the cost of a new building to replace Wick High School. Some buildings on the site were constructed 110 years ago.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

Highland Council is reviewing its school estate.

Consultants have been appointed to investigate the site for the £7m school at Milton of Leys.

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar's education committee has agreed to go out to formal consultation in relation to the proposed closure of Cross and Stoneybridge Schools and the proposed discontinuation of S1/S2 education at Daliburgh School.

The committee has also agreed a programme of informal community conversations during 2010 on the other schools.

A decision on the closures and amalgamations could be taken by councillors on 4 November.

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