The long-awaited Tain campus, replacing four schools in Ross-shire, has finally been given the go-ahead.
The current facility at Tain Royal Academy lacks disabled access, has a broken heating system and has stairs held together by tape, and was visited last week by Deputy First Minister John Sweeney, where he was shown around the school by pupils with umbrellas.
The new campus will replace all of the town’s schools with one “super school”, with the buildings at Knockbreck Primary, Craighill Primary, St Duthus School and the existing Tain Royal Academy being transformed into “much-needed housing for local families.”
Highland Council Leader Margaret Davidson and Gail Ross MSP hailed the “transformational” project, adding their delight for Tain and the “exciting time” it will inevitably bring.
Mrs Davidson said the “project presents us with creative opportunities” adding “it is terrific news not just for Tain, but it represents a huge investment in the wider Easter Ross and Seaboard area.”
Ms Ross added: “Children and young people in Easter Ross and Sutherland have spent far too long learning in conditions that didn’t suit modern day learning and teaching and were cold, leaking and of a very poor standard.”
In the Western Isles, the local authority “warmly welcomed” the announcement that its Castlebay project has been approved, taking forward innovative proposals for education, health and social care services in Barra and Vatersay.
Councillor Roddie Mackay, leader of the Western Isles Council, said: “This represents a fantastic economic and employment opportunity for Barra and Vatersay and has the potential to support social, economic and population regeneration”.
There was no funding announcement for Moray yesterday; however, construction projects are already underway on a replacement for Lossiemouth High School as well as the new Linkwood Primary School.
Shona Morrison, vice chairwoman of Moray Council’s children and young people services committee, said the local authority is investing a further £3.3million into upgrading three secondary and three primary schools over the next 12 months.
Coinciding with the funding announcement, new figures produced by the Scottish Government in The School Estates Statistics 2019 document show an increase in buildings across the school estate ranked as “good or satisfactory increasing from 61.1% in April 2007 to 88.3% in April 2019.
Mr Swinney said: “We’ve got to make sure that young people are educated in high-quality educational facilities and in a conversation with the pupils they made the point in ensuring the school is technologically capable.
“The investment is fundamental to that and I’m delighted with the commitments we’ve been able to make.”
Despite the positive news, new figures yesterday also revealed more than 100 schools in Highland and Moray are still classified as “poor” when it comes to the condition of buildings pupils are taught in.
The report suggests there has been an overall improvement in the two local authorities in the past year, but they were still among the council areas with the highest proportion of unsatisfactory ratings.
Jamie Halcro Johnston, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, slammed the revelation as “shocking”.
He added: “It is simply unacceptable that local children are still being taught in substandard schools.”