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Councillors approve plans to close Skye schools

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Councillors have voted to close four primary schools on Skye despite opposition from parents.

Members of the education, children and adult services committee voted to approve plans which will see a new community school built in Dunvegan.

It means that existing north Skye schools in Dunvegan, Edinbane, Knockbreck and Struan all now face closure.

The committee also agreed that a new consultation will be launched to consider “dual zoning” the catchment area of the new school with Carbost Primary and MacDiarmid Primary in Portree.

Councillor Drew Millar said that council officials had “underestimated” the time it would take to travel from some of the rural communities to Dunvegan and argued that parents should have the chance to place their children in the other schools.

Parents have spoken out against the plans throughout the consultation process,

A row blew up when Highland Council was accused of accelerating the consultation on possible closure to avoid new legislation that made closure more difficult.

The consultation was expected to begin in August but instead it started in May and finished in July – just before the Children and Young People’s Scotland Act became law on August 1.

The new act includes “a presumption against rural school closure” and states the local authority must identify its reasons for proposing closure and consider whether there are any reasonable alternatives.

Concerned parents will have the opportunity to refer the plan to the Scottish Government.

Local MSP Dave Thompson has already written to ministers asking for the decision to be called in.

Committee members said they understood some of the parent’s concerns – but understood the benefits the need for a new school.

Mr Miller said: “Members are elected to make difficult decisions and we have one of those in front of us here in front of us.

“My main concern is saying it will take now more than 30 minutes to travel to Dunvegan is really underestimating things.

Councillor Ian Renwick added: “I think there is agreement that we need a new school in Dunvegan. I don’t like the expression but it is not fit for purpose.

On the other hand I don’t want it to be at the detriment of the other three areas.”

Bill Alexander, Highland Council’s director of care and learning said that the recommendation had been made because of the “educational benefits” of the new establishment.

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