More than a third of primary schools in ‘poor’ condition in Scotland are in the Highlands.
New school estate statistics released by the Scottish Government show the region has 67 primary schools deemed to be in poor condition.
This means nearly 40% of Highland’s 171 primary schools fail to make the grade.
And with 187 poor schools across Scotland, Highland makes up over a third of that total too.
In Moray, 20 of its 45 primary schools got a label of ‘poor’ condition.
In comparison, Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire each had only one primary school each classed as being in poor condition.
Meanwhile, 11 of Highland’s 29 secondary schools are in poor condition – and three of eight in Moray.
Only one secondary school in Aberdeenshire received a ‘poor’ grading, and none in Aberdeen City.
The new figures show nearly 60,000 Scottish pupils attend schools rated to be in a ‘poor’ or ‘bad’ condition – over 8% of all pupils.
Scottish Labour called for action to ‘pandemic proof’ schools, particularly the improvement of classroom ventilation.
It warned that the figures could mask the true scale of the problem and said it is important to know whether schools are Covid safe.
The party’s education spokesman Michael Marra said: “Almost 60,000 pupils are in schools that are not fit for purpose – that is not good enough.
“We are 18 months into a pandemic, but we still have no idea which schools are safe or what quality of air children are breathing.
“There urgently needs to be a real assessment of classroom ventilation, with robust action taken to improve air quality in classrooms which fail.
“The SNP have wasted an entire summer by not doing this.
“Ventilation is a crucial aspect of school safety now, and reports on the school estate must include this from now on.”
Ageing buildings across a third of country
Highland Council admitted that it had an “ageing school estate”.
A spokeswoman for the authority cited the challenges of managing schools across such a large geographical area – a third of Scotland.
She said: “Highland Council has one of the largest school estates in Scotland with over 200 schools.
“We do have an ageing school estate and are continually working to make improvements to our education environments.
“Eleven schools have been identified as priorities in our capital plan.
“We are continuing to progress on key school projects, funded through our capital programme with Scottish Government support.
“Additionally, in June significant capital funding of £54m was identified for investment in five Highland schools.
“As a council, we face various challenges in our ability to address school estate improvements. These include our borrowing capacity, impacts on our budget of capital investment, spend of other resources, and grant funding made available by the Scottish Government.
“These challenges are made more complex, and difficult, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Moray pledge to invest in schools
Meanwhile, a spokesman for Moray Council acknowledged the statistics.
They said: “We will continue to invest in the condition and suitability of our existing learning estate.
“We remain focused on improving the learning estate across Moray. Our £300m Learning Estate Strategy was approved by the council following consultation with parents last year.
“The investment-driven strategy will see bespoke projects developed to meet the needs of individual areas in Moray.
“We fully understand that improvements can be made to learning environments across Moray. We look forward to working with local communities to find out what is important to them.”
Many local authorities have already reported progress in addressing ventilation issues in the school estate using our guidance, much of which has been in place since last year.”
Scottish Government spokesperson
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Schools buildings across Scotland are in their best condition since recorded figures began.
“We are providing local authorities with an additional £10 million to ensure that schools and childcare settings have access to CO2 monitoring. This is on top of £90 million Covid logistics funding already provided to councils.
“Many local authorities have already reported progress in addressing ventilation issues in the school estate using our guidance, much of which has been in place since last year.
“We have asked councils to complete assessments of their schools and early learning and childcare settings by October half-term – subject to sufficient supplies of CO2 monitors being available for purchase.”