Furious Culloden Academy parents have accused Highland Council of a lack of transparency and support over expansion work at the school.
Mother-of-three Jennifer Alexander has issued a statement claiming Highland Council administration has not adequately addressed the increased overcrowding at the secondary school.
The statement was issued on behalf of parents in the stakeholder group that has been working with the council.
It became clear this week that the £7.718million budget is only for the first phase of expansion at Culloden. The council does not have a plan for future funding for work at the school.
But there is a plan to review the capital budget this autumn, and one councillor suggested it could be a reason for parents to take heart.
What the statement said
Culloden Academy’s student roll is capped for the upcoming year and the current enrolment is almost 200 above capacity. Those numbers are expected to grow over the next 15 years, and Mrs Alexander said that students and staff can’t wait any longer for help.
“As far as the building at Culloden Academy goes, it’s almost not fit for purpose due to overcrowding and lack of any space to move about it. There is no space or nice area for the pupils to socialise and many have to eat their packed lunches while sitting on the floor.”
The council have not been transparent with us.”
Mrs Alexander said that she and members of a stakeholder group had worked with the council on the project. But she now feels that their voices weren’t heard.
“As parents of young people who attend Culloden Academy, we are extremely disappointed, let down, frustrated, and deeply concerned about the lack of support from the Highland council when it comes to the desperately needed extension of Culloden Academy.
“We have been working with the council as part of a stakeholder group which has frankly been a waste of the parent’s time as the council have not been transparent with us.”
“This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed.”
Mrs Alexander said parents would welcome input from chief executive Donna Manson regarding the “desperate situation that our children are in while attending school.”
“We need more funding,” Mrs Alexander said. “This is a serious issue that needs to be addressed to give our children, our community, teachers and staff a comfortable, safe environment that benefits all.”
Mrs Alexander’s statement comes after local councillors spoke up this week to demand the council fund the full expansion.
A council spokeswoman said the budget was increased to £7.71m this year and additional funding was approved for modular classroom units.
She explained that the first phase of work, happening just now, is to address current capacity pressures. Future capacity issues would need to be addressed by adding additional phases of building works.
She said: “This first phase remains on target for 2023. Members will be reviewing the capital programme in Autumn 2021.
“However there are no additional funds for Culloden Academy available at this time.”
Hope for the future
Councillor Ben Thompson, chairman of the housing and property committee, said that the Culloden project is wrapped up in an ever-shifting economic landscape.
He said that the council has been working to build up its savings, he expects reserve funding will be higher at the end of this year than it was in 2018. Work on the budget and specific projects are ongoing, he said.
He added that he understands the frustration and good intentions of parents and local councillors.
“I would expect the full capital review this Autumn will be a much wider piece of work” than the revaluation done in January, he said.
“I would just encourage parents to be as involved as possible.
“I am hopeful that Culloden will have the expansion that they need after this autumn review.”