Mushrooms found growing in “various” damp-ridden classrooms at north school

Mushrooms were found in “various” damp-ridden classrooms and gyms at one of the north’s top performing schools.

In the latest in a string of complaints about the dilapidated Fortrose Academy, it has emerged fungi has been found at “various times and in various locations” at the school.

Claims girls refusing to use “mouldy” showers at Highland school

Last night, local MSP Kate Forbes said the revelation made her “skin crawl” and left her “disgusted”.

The mushrooms were growing in classrooms and outside gyms due to “water ingress”, although the local authority and parents insisted the issues had now been resolved.

Fortrose Academy Parent Council raised concerns earlier this year about the “appalling” state of the older buildings at the Black Isle secondary, demanding urgent action to address the damp and mould.

Ms Forbes, the SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, was shocked by the problem and said it underlined how some of the classrooms were clearly “unfit for purpose”.

She said: “I am disgusted to learn that mushrooms have been growing within Fortrose Academy, at various times and in various locations over the past few years.

“Even thinking about it makes my skin crawl, and I have every sympathy for staff and pupils at the school who have been using these facilities.

“Whilst I acknowledge that the fungus has since been removed, the reality is that it had been growing a few feet away from pupils as they were being taught in a classroom that was clearly unfit for purpose.

“This further demonstrates that there are legitimate and growing concerns about the general condition of parts of the school building.”

Last night, the parent council said it had been “pleased” by the response of the local authority after concerns were raised about the state of the school.

Emergency funding was agreed in February to address some of the issues, and councillors are expected to discuss the problems again at a meeting on Wednesday.

Council architects are also believed to have visited the school last week to discuss demolishing and remodelling the showers in the physical education department, amid previous reports that female pupils were refusing to use them because of their state.

But the parent council said the biggest issue facing Fortrose Academy and other north schools now was the “massive problems” recruiting teachers.

Parents also reported that the mushroom issue was finally dealt with last year, although Highland Council insisted the most recent recorded case was in September 2014.

Jo-Anne Pugh, co-chairwoman of the parent council, said: “They were removed some time last year but it was the continuing poor state of the building that prompted the campaign begun by the parent council at the start of this year.

“The parent council is pleased that Highland Council is now taking action over repairs and refurbishment. We expect work to continue over the summer and into next term – and we will definitely be monitoring it.”

She urged Ms Forbes to “turn her attention to the massive problems facing Highland schools in recruiting and retaining staff”, particularly in language and STEM subjects, and additional support needs staff.

Ms Pugh said: “The physical state of the school is obviously important – but once you’ve addressed health and safety concerns, at the end of the day, it’s teachers that make a school – not the building – and a more imaginative approach to recruitment and retention is urgently needed in Highland and across the country.”

A Highland Council spokeswoman said: “Fungi was reported within some of the walls of Fortrose Academy in 2014 and removed at the time.

“It was caused by water ingress. The roof in the gym area has since been renewed. The outside wall of room 14 has been lagged and the gutters have been altered to stop excess water running down the wall.

“Internally the whole wall was stripped back to bare bricks and a new wall has been put in place with ventilation points along the bottom and top of the wall.”

Asked about teacher recruitment, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “Our deal with local authorities to maintain the pupil-teacher ratio has seen an increase in teacher recruitment by councils and resulted in 253 more teachers last year.

“We recognise that some councils face challenges in relation to teacher recruitment which is a matter for local authorities to take forward.”