The news of Culloden Academy’s inclusion in a potential school investment plan has met with mixed reactions.
Local councillors and community members welcomed the progress but said there is more work to be done.
At the full council meeting on June 24, Highland Council has the option to adopt a £54 million school investment plan.
Part of that is a potential £9 million allocation for Culloden Academy. That money would be in addition to the £7.718 million that the council has already confirmed.
Some local councillors greeted the announcement warmly, saying they are “delighted” by the ability to get the fund the new science and art blocks that the school was promised.
But, even if the council approves this next batch of funding, it only addresses roll pressures through 2029. More work will be needed to address the area’s population growth, and overcrowding at the school that is expected to last into the 2030s.
What would the extra investment fund?
According to the agenda papers for Highland Council’s 24 June meeting, the council recognizes that the current budget “will not be sufficient to meet school capacity requirement in August 2023”.
Instead, the proposed £8 or £9 million extra is meant to be enough to fund a second phase of expansion and meet capacity needs now and through 2028/2029.
Scottish Liberal Democratic Councillor Trish Robertson said that the money is what she and others have been calling for.
“It’s good news, it’s excellent news and we’re delighted. For Culloden, this will complete the extension to give us the new science hub and the new arts department.
“And that will relieve the pressure inside the school where the classrooms can be refurbished for other means. It will also still mean that we may have to retain the demountables until we can get a further extension, or get a new high school built.
“But it solves the immediate problems and will see us through to 2028/29, which is really all we can ask for at this stage.”
The original discussions to expand the school in 2018 included talks of a full school replacement. After a series of delays and severe budget shortfalls, Mrs Robertson said this new proposal is a step in the right direction.
“It all depends on the councillors actually voting it through next week. But it looks positive.”
Reactions to Culloden Academy: what’s left to be done?
Despite the promise of a potential boost, officials expect Culloden Academy will continue growing for the next 15 years.
David McGrath, former chairman of the Culloden Community Council, said that, even if the council approves the extra £9 million, the Culloden area will still need more and bigger schools if development trends continue.
In areas around Stratton and Culloden, thousands of homes have been built, but Mr McGrath wondered why additional infrastructure hasn’t been added in these areas.
“Why is Highland Council not funding new-build schools, not only in Culloden, but in the greater Inverness area, for all of the developments that are going on at the moment?”
He said that with thousands of houses in the area that feeds into Culloden Academy, overcrowding will get worse without new schools.
Mrs Robertson said that she is also aware of this possibility. Future action will be necessary, she added.
“This will take us up to 2028/29, and by the time that comes round we will be looking at the other schools. There are problems across Inverness.
“It will be long-term, because it will involve catchment consultation to address the problems across the high school estate in Inverness itself. We’re looking to bring in the Tornagrain school, the Stratton school and possibly a new high school.”
School estate issues will feature at the coming council session
A spokeswoman for the council said that councillors will discuss all of the proposed investment projects in more detail next week.
“A report with proposals for a number of capital projects is going to Council next week on 24 June. The Council reports were published on the Council website Friday 18 June and detail the outline funding and proposals for each of the 5 schools identified for investment.”