Schools crisis likely to tax minds in council elections

Forres Academy – one of the many schools contributing to Moray Council’s woes.

THE CONTRASTING FORTUNES of Moray’s schools have been brought into sharp focus once again as the massive issues facing crumbling buildings were highlighted over the weekend.

Just days after the slick Moray Council PR machine was boasting of the success of a local school in being recognised by a national magazine as one of the best in the nation, the reality of the situation facing our schools was back in the spotlight.

Moray Council have been rated as the authority with the biggest problem in the country with 35 of its 45 primary schools – and a healthy proportion of secondary schools – in urgent need of upgrading else they will soon be deemed unfit for purpose.

While by no means alone in having to face up to the crisis, there are 302 primary schools and 74 secondary throughout Scotland facing the same issues, Moray is arguably one of the least able to address the financial burden facing their school estate.

“It is well recognised that Moray’s school estate is badly in need of investment,” regional MSP and, until May at least, local councillor Douglas Ross commented after reviewing the latest set of disturbing figures.

Buckie High School – another Moray secondary causing concern.

He added: “Elgin High School has waited a long time to be upgraded but these figures show there are far more needing urgent attention.

“The council is looking at this but I would also hope the Scottish Government would look at the state of the buildings and support plans to upgrade them.”

Facing at £50million bill for repairing its school estate, the Moray Council administration attempted to force through a Sustainable Education Review in 2014 – however, it was ultimately defeated by an SNP-led revolt against the plan.

For their part the Scottish Government will point to assistance already directed towards Moray, with the renewal of both Elgin Academy and Elgin High School, plus a forthcoming new Lossiemouth High School and support for another new primary school in Elgin.

Communities in Forres and Buckie, however, will point to the crumbling secondary schools in which their children are taught – and ask when their turn will come around – and are likely to make the issue one of the hot topics in the forthcoming council elections.

A Scottish Government spokesman, meanwhile, found a more positive spin to place on the latest figures, saying: “The proportion of schools reported as being in good or satisfactory condition has increased substantially under this government.

“Investment plans are in place to improve condition and suitability of some 149 schools currently in poor or bad condition.”