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Safety goggles, power cables and art easels… Some of the things parents have been forced to spend thousands on for pupils at top north school

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Parents are having to spend thousands of pounds a year to buy textbooks and basic equipment for pupils at one of the north’s top performing schools.

Fortrose Academy’s parent council was forced to shell out more than £15,000 last year on essentials such as safety goggles, power cables, drug awareness kits, and art easels.

And there were fears last night that teachers in schools across the region were having to “beg for basic resources”.

North MSP Kate Forbes has written to Highland Council after being left “shocked” and “deeply concerned” by the scale of the problem at the Black Isle school.

Accounts seen by the Press and Journal show that a trust fund of money raised by parents last year paid out almost £5,000 on textbooks alone, for subjects including biology, business studies, chemistry, English, geography, history, maths and modern languages.

There was also a £414 bill for safety goggles and £590.80 for a new power supply and safety cables in the science department, as well as £300 for easels and light boxes in art and design, and £725 towards a new PA system.

Parent council treasurer Barbara Gray said the problems at Fortrose were not unusual in the Highlands.

“Most parent councils are doing it. I would be surprised if they are not,” she said.

“Parent council funds these days are not going on school trips and things like that, they are going on books.

“There are even things like safety goggles, and the bulb for the overhead projector. It’s absolutely basic things.

“Parents assume it’s the same as when they went to school and everything is paid for, but it really isn’t

“There’s no elbow room for head teachers. All of them are basically working at full capacity at the moment.

“It’s just wrong that teachers are having to beg for basic resources, and it’s all against the background of changes in the curriculum which are basically an annual event.”

Ms Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said she was left stunned when she was made aware of the problem.

“It is alarming if one of the best performing schools within the Highlands is relying on thousands of pounds of parents’ money to buy the basics,” she said.

“I am deeply concerned that parents report that the rector is having to use thousands of pounds from a trust fund to buy textbooks for pupils.”

She added: “I understand that everyone is struggling with limited financial resources, but councils have a statutory duty to deliver education.

“It begs the question whether there are pupils at other secondary schools in the Highlands who are having to make do with outdated or textbooks that are falling to bits.”

Highland Council’s education committee chairman, Drew Millar, said the problem stems from a cumulative 7% cut to the local authority’s devolved school management budget in as many years.

And he fears there are “worse times to come” while stressing that school management budgets must be protected in future as they are currently at “crisis point.”

He added that a possible solution is to have headteachers deciding on how resources are shared between secondaries and two or three primaries in the same catchment area.

A recent survey, which questioned almost 1,200 members of the National Union of Teachers and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers members across the UK, found one-in-six of those polled said their school had asked parents for money to help with school funding.

The issue at Fortrose emerged just weeks after parents complained about the “crumbling” and “mouldy” condition of the older blocks at the school, with education chiefs subsequently agreeing emergency funding to patch up the buildings.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said Highland Council will receive more than £474million from the 2017-18 local government finance settlement.

She said: “Highland Council will have almost an extra £20.4million to support services in 2017-18 which equates to an additional 4.4% on 2016-17.

“As part of the Scottish Government’s determination to close the poverty related attainment gap, we have committed £3.9million of Pupil Equity Funding to schools across Highland Council, including Fortrose Academy, which will go directly to head teachers.

“It is the responsibility of each local authority to allocate the total financial resources available to it on the basis of local needs and priorities, including the importance of meeting its statutory obligations and its statutory responsibility to provide pupils with the necessary books and materials.”

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