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Schools could close in Highlands

5 March 10 09:48 GMT

School closures could be considered by Highland Council as it seeks to make savings in future budgets.

Budget leader David Alston said it may be found that a "better education" could be provided by fewer, more modern schools.

The local authority is to begin consulting the public on suggestions of where cuts in general could be made.

Savings of £36m are being sought in the local authority's 2011-12 and 2012-13 budgets.

However, the council's SNP group said that the public consultation exercise was an "abdication" of decision-making.

Group leader John Finnie said making cuts was a complex issue and officials' recommendations to councillors where they could be made were supported by "reams" of reports.

He said the what council's ruling administration was doing was a "casual survey".

On schools, Liberal Democrat councillor Mr Alston said the question had to be asked whether the region has the right number of buildings of the correct size and in the right location.

He said: "I think it is very unlikely that the answer to that is 'yes' because where schools are at the moment is purely a matter of historical accident. It doesn't reflect where the population is just now.

"Could you get better education by having fewer schools, that are better buildings, that have a wider curriculum within them?"

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.

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