A major review of pre-school and primary school provision in Greater Fort William will take place over the summer. Local councillors, community council chairpersons, head teachers, parent council chairpersons of the seven local primary schools involved and representatives from the pre-school sector have each received letters from The Highland Council’s Education Culture and Sport Service advising them of an options appraisal exercise which is being carried out for the Council by independent consultants, Caledonian Economics Ltd (CEL).
Further details of the options appraisal exercise will be provided at project briefing meetings being held for North schools in Caol Community Centre on Wednesday 13 May and for South schools at Lochaber House, Fort William, on Thursday 14 May. There will also be drop in sessions for the general public at Fort William Library on Thursday and Caol Community Centre on Friday, both between 10 am - 5 pm.
The consultants will report back to the Education Culture and Sport Committee on 17 September with their recommendations.
In a letter to parents, Mr Ron Mackenzie, Head of Support Services, Education Culture and Sport, explained the council was embarking on the review because of an over-provision of school places in the Greater Fort William area and concerns over the quality of school buildings.
Delivering maximum community benefit was critical to the outcome of the review and a number of factors needed to be taken into account, including:
• Meeting future educational and community needs including potential co-location with other community services
• Meeting the requirements of the Gaelic Plan
• Denominational issues
• School roll projections
• Existing building use
• Condition and suitability of existing buildings
• Sustainable design
Mr Mackenzie said Council officials will provide the consultants (CEL) with details of each of the seven primary schools within the Greater Fort William area and advise them of the Council’s decision that a dedicated Gaelic language facility should be provided within the Greater Fort William area.
He said: “CEL will consider feedback received from the stakeholders, who will be asked to consider what they want from the exercise, including the facilities for pre-school children, wraparound childcare, the location of potential new buildings, the layout of the building and what community facilities should be available within that building.
“On the basis of this information, there will be an initial report for local members to agree which options should be formally assessed within the options appraisal framework. This will be on the basis that not all of the options presented will be affordable or considered appropriate by local members. This exercise might result in options other than those previously set out being identified and considered. Thereafter options selected by elected members will be evaluated.”
He said elected members would decide which of the options identified within the report will be taken forward and progressed through the statutory consultation process at the ECS Committee meeting in September.
As part of the statutory consultative process, there would be an opportunity for local communities to comment on the proposals
Thereafter, the outcomes of the statutory consultative process would be brought back to a future ECS Committee for consideration, probably during spring 2010.
Councillor Bill Fernie, Chairman of the Education Culture & Sport Committee, said: “It is very important that we plan ahead for investment in our schools and community facilities. This exercise is a very important step in this process which is all about identifying needs and possible opportunities for the future.”