Future of Skipness Primary School hangs in the balance

Skipness Primary School

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The future of a Kintyre Primary School, along with two others in the Argyll and Bute catchment, was set to be discussed at a meeting of councillors this week.

An extension to the consultation period – until the end of May – on whether to close Skipness Primary School has been recommended due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Council officers have also recommended the mothballing of Minard and Luing Primary Schools, neither of which has any pupils this year.

Minard has not had any pupils since October 2018.

Reports concerning all three schools were being considered by the council’s community services committee this week.

Skipness Primary’s future first came under the microscope in September 2019, when the committee agreed to undertake a consultation and options appraisal.

Six months later it was agreed that a draft proposal should go out to consultation. Executive director Douglas Hendry said at that time: ‘It is proposed that education provision at Skipness Primary School be discontinued with effect from October 28, 2020.

‘The catchment area of Tarbert Primary School will be extended to include the current catchment area of Skipness Primary School.’

A public meeting on the subject was also scheduled for May, but the Covid-19 pandemic has prevented the consultation process moving ahead as planned.

Mr Hendry said in a report for this week’s meeting: ‘On August 27, 2020 the Business Continuity Committee met to deal with several items of council business to be addressed during the pandemic.

‘The committee agreed to officers’ proposals to extend the consultation period from August 31, 2020 to December 18, 2020 with a new date (for the meeting) to be set once the regulations imposing restrictions of public gatherings allow it to proceed.

‘Notification of the rearranged public meeting is to be distributed to all relevant consultees in due course.

‘However, due to a further increase nationally in coronavirus cases in the latter part of this year restrictions on public gatherings have continued and/or been re-imposed rather than relaxed. It is now clear that the consultation exercise will not be able to proceed as planned within this extension period.’

The committee is now recommended to agree that the consultation period should run from December 18 to May 31, 2021.

Meanwhile, it is recommended that Minard Primary School continues to be mothballed until at least May 2021, and a pre-consultation meeting is held when public health restrictions on meetings allow.

The same recommendation has been made regarding Luing Primary, but with mothballing continuing until June 2022.

The council’s education services department will work out all options available, and present findings to the committee at a meeting during that month.

Concerns were also raised about the possible scrapping of pupil support assistant posts at Argyll and Bute Council.

The removal of 38 posts – the full-time equivalent of 14.3 jobs – is included in a list of ‘savings options’ for consideration by councillors as part of the authority’s annual budget-setting process.

The full list of options was due to be discussed by the council’s policy and resources committee yesterday.