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Councillors ramp up demands to tackle Culloden Academy over-capacity issues

Highland Councillor Ken Gowans outside Culloden Academy.
Highland Councillor Ken Gowans outside Culloden Academy.

Inverness councillors are ramping up demands that the capacity crisis at Culloden Academy should be tackled urgently.

The school currently has 1,149 pupils, amounting to 181 over capacity.

The councillors have raised the situation at several recent council meetings, pointing out that children are having to sit on the floor to eat their lunch in the dining room, and that what they call classroom ‘sheds’ are unfit for purpose.

With hundreds of homes due for construction in the area, current projections would see the school at more than 330 over capacity by the end of this decade – an intolerable situation, says local councillor Ken Gowans.

He said: “There’s a huge amount of building going on between the Stratton development and the 300 home council development across the road.

“They were supposed to facilitate a land deal whereby we were given land to expand the size of the building, but things have moved very slowly.

“The over-capacity issue is not fair on anyone, including the staff, and the head teacher is doing his best to mitigate an increasingly difficult situation.”

In 2018, the council allocated £7m to build a new extension, with £750,000 allocated for architects’ plans and public engagement.

Mr Gowans said: “They talked about demountables for a while but that never happened.

“There was a meeting last year  for the parents where the architects gave a presentation about how they thought the school should work, looking for input, but nothing has moved on since then, meantime the school roll projections are going through the roof.”

‘It’s time to end the warm words and endless talk.’

Conservative Highland Councillor Andrew Jarvie.

Inverness South councillor Andrew Jarvie said he attended the school from 2004, and since then nothing has changed, and the school’s condition has continued to deteriorate.

He said: “Even then sitting on the floor or having to go outside for lunch was the norm.

“I remember a rickety plank in one of the sheds which if you stood on it would raise up in the next classroom.

“It’s time to end the warm words and endless talk.

“People learning in corridors and big class sizes inevitably affect education.

“A packed school is busy and stressy, despite teachers’ best efforts.

“What’s really needed is a new school for Culloden West but that is years away.”

Culloden and Ardersier councillor Trish Robertson, who has a youngster in the school, said she has been chasing the plans for months to no avail.

“It’s as though nothing has happened.

“I know for a fact only £37,000 has been spent towards planning, when there was £750,000 for it.”

‘Culloden Academy will be in the programme, it has to be.’

Council leader Margaret Davidson said the project is in the capital programme, which has been delayed nine months due to the pandemic.

She said: “We’ve just opened two much-needed new schools in Merkinch and Alness, now the focus needs to come around to Inverness because of the growing rolls.

“We’ve got a lot of growth going on and the prospect of exciting futures in Highland with people starting to come here and houses selling well.

“We’re looking again at the capital programme after the cuts in revenue budget that we’ve had, and we need to be crystal clear about what cash we’ve got and what we need to do.

“Culloden Academy will be in the programme, it has to be.”

A spokesman for the council said an updated report on the project will be presented to councillors this week.

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