Highland Council officers back first Scottish community-build school project

Strontian Community School Building Limited chairman the Rev Donald McCorkindale with head teacher Pamela Hill and SCSBL treasurer Jamie McIntyre at Strontian Primary School
Strontian Community School Building Limited chairman the Rev Donald McCorkindale with head teacher Pamela Hill and SCSBL treasurer Jamie McIntyre at Strontian Primary School

The Highland group behind plans for the first community-built school in Scotland has won the backing of Highland Council education officers.

People living in remote Strontian on the Ardnamurchan peninsula in Lochaber decided to build their own school after being told that the local authority did not have the resources to replace the village’s dilapidated 36-pupil, two-class primary school.

They set up a community benefit society, called Strontian Community School Building Limited, to take the £700,000 project forward with help from the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust.

And now, the council’s director of care and learning Bill Alexander has put it in writing that he is supporting their plans – a huge boost for the project.

In his final consultation report to be considered by members of the education, children and adult services committee later this month, he concludes that “the revised proposal offers the prospect of educational and community benefits and has the support of the local community”.

And he recommends the relocation of Strontian Primary School to a new build on land close to Ardnamurchan High School, which is dependent on the community proposal to own, fund and develop the facility.

The community benefit society chairman the Rev Donald McCorkindale said: “We are very pleased to have the backing of council officers.

“It’s all coming together now. These are exciting times.

“We certainly hope that the councillors back the proposal at the education committee meeting and then at the full council meeting in September.”

If councillors approve the move, locals are hoping to have the new school up and running by October of next year.

McCorkindale added that they had hoped to launch a community share offer for the project last month, but it had been delayed.

It is now hoped this can be done by the end of this month.

Councillor Andrew Baxter, Fort William and Ardnamurchan, said: “This is a fantastic achievement by the working group in Strontian.

“They have done a fantastic job in convincing officers that this should be the preferred option.

“Officers have also acknowledged that this may be an innovative way of building schools across Highland in the future.

Mr Alexander’s report is available on the council’s website at www.highland.gov.uk and members of the public are being invited to comment on it by August 24.

Breaking