Officials have recommended a mothballed Highland primary school be closed for good – and locals only have days left to have their say.
Highland Council officials propose closing Roy Bridge Primary School, which has been mothballed since the roll fell to just two in 2017.
If the school closes, pupils in the Roy Bridge catchment will attend Spean Bridge Primary School.
Spean Bridge is approximately three miles away and Roy Bridge pupils have been attending since Easter of 2017.
The council hosted a public meeting this week as part of an ongoing discussion of the potential closure. The consultation process began in November and ends on January 21, which is also the last day that community members can submit comments.
Parents started ‘voting with their feet’
Local councillor Allan Henderson has been involved in multiple fights to save Roy Bridge from mothballing and closure. But he said on Wednesday that the council’s current proposal to close the school felt inevitable.
“When parents started to vote with their feet, and take a look at the shiny new schools around there, sadly the numbers dwindled so much that it took us to the inevitable decision that it should be closure.”
Roy Bridge School was mothballed in April 2017, after the school roll fell from almost 30 in 2009 to just two midway through the school year.
At the time, the current class of pupils moved to nearby Spean Bridge.
Ian Jackson, education officer for the council said that, before the school was mothballed, many Roy Bridge parents chose to take their children elsewhere.
Education quality improvement officer Don Esson said there are currently about 30 pupils who could go to Roy Bridge who are instead attending either Spean Bridge or Bun-Sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abar, the Gaelic Medium school in Fort William.
‘Roy Bridge has lost a lot’
Community member John Fotheringham said that he was disappointed that the consultation process was not more well-known in the village.
Although the council sent notices to all Spean Bridge parents, some families with young children not yet in the school system didn’t know about Roy Bridge’s possible closure until recently.
“Roy Bridge has lost a lot over the years. It’s lost its shop, it’s lost its post office, but it’s still a vibrant community. And I think the people of Roy Bridge should have been better dealt with.”
What is mothballing?
When Roy Bridge’s roll fell in 2017, the council suspended services there. Known as mothballing, this process closes a school temporarily. But the council must maintain it to a certain standard so they can reopen it if pupils return to the area.
Because of the obligation to keep schools maintained during mothballing, the site is still an expense. Last May, the Press & Journal revealed that three north and north-east councils spent more than £270,000 on mothballed schools.
Roy Bridge is currently still mothballed, but the ongoing consultation will determine whether the council closes it permanently. If they vote to close it, the Scottish Government will review the decision and the council will have to decide how to use the building.
They can repurpose it for other council services or, eventually, sell it.
Still time for parents to weigh in
Some community members at Wednesday night’s meeting raised possible alternatives for the school site.
One suggested the school could become a Gaelic Medium school. The children in the area currently attend Bun-Sgoil Ghàidhlig Loch Abar in Fort William for Gaelic education.
Although the council recommends closing the school, the decision isn’t final. Visit the Highland Council consultations page for the council’s full proposal on Roy Bridge.
Parents and community members can submit comments to the council in a variety of ways:
- Ian Jackson, Area Education and Learning Office, Camaghael Hostel, Fort William PH33 7AB
- Email email@example.com
- Submit a comment online.
Comments are due by Friday January 21.