Campaigners in the north Highlands have won a battle over a controversial shake-up of the management of local schools.
There was anger in north Sutherland last month after education chiefs proposed having just one head teacher and one deputy to cover Farr High School, Farr Primary, Altnaharra Primary, Tongue Primary and Melvich Primary.
The move was part of a reorganisation of schools in the Highlands over the coming years under a new “cluster” model.
Councillors eventually paused the plans for schools connected to Farr High and Mallaig High as a result of the controversy and officials have now produced a revised package.
After further consultation, officers are now recommending the north Sutherland cluster of schools is allocated an extra deputy head teacher and another principal teacher.
The change was demanded by local councillor, Linda Munro, although she admitted there was still concern among parents of Tongue and Melvich primaries about the plans.
Last night, she said: “We’re very pleased that we now have two deputy heads, one head teacher and we’ve also got another principal teacher.
“It’s quite a win and I think the Press and Journal had a lot to do with it by highlighting the issue.
“I think this model delivers, but it is going to take work. There’s going to need to be a lot of work and real negotiation.”
Highland Council officials believe introducing the new cluster model across the region will help solve chronic recruitment problems, enable head teachers to spend less time in classrooms, and potentially save small, rural schools from closure.
From August, the new management arrangements are due to take effect at schools connected to Farr High, Kilchuimen Academy, Kinlochbervie High, Dornoch Academy and Plockton High as well as some primaries feeding into Lochaber High and Millburn Academy.
Concerns were also raised last month about the shake-up planned for schools connected to Mallaig High, where one head teacher would initially run the secondary and mainland primaries, while two joint cluster heads would run island primaries on Rum, Canna, Muck and Eigg.
A report to the council’s education committee on Wednesday stated: “Further consultation should continue with these communities, to take particular account of the needs of the very small school rolls on the Small Isles, including further development and testing of the technology required to support any new management arrangement.”
A report on the Mallaig associated schools will be produced for the committee’s next meeting in June.