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Badenoch primary school is facing an uncertain future

By Gavin Musgrove

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Gergask Primary School roll used to be in the mid 20s during the 2010s but only two pupils are enrolled so far for new term.
Gergask Primary School roll used to be in the mid 20s during the 2010s but only two pupils are enrolled so far for new term.

The far south of Badenoch could be left without any primary school soon unless more pupils join the roll at Laggan.

There are fears that Gergask Primary School could be in danger of closing just a few years after being a thriving hub of the community.

So far only two pupils have enrolled and there are no new-starts for the coming academic year which gets under way next month.

As recently as 2014/15 there were 23 pupils attending classes. There were four pupils for 2021/2022. The next smallest in the south area of the Highlands was Foyer Primary School with seven children.

Highland Council has said no decision has been taken yet on the school’s future but confirmed that it is monitoring the situation.

An education authority spokesperson said: “Following recent changes to the number of children in the area, the school roll at Gergask Primary School in August is expected to be very low.

“The Highland Council will review the situation when the schools return and, depending on the pupil numbers, may start informal discussions with the local community on the future of the school. This may include an option to temporarily close – ‘mothball’ – the school.

“When a school roll falls very low, the authority and/or community may consider that while the school is not presently viable, there is a reasonable prospect that the number of pupils in the area will increase to allow the school to be reopened in the future.

“No decisions have yet been taken and any proposal for a permanent closure of the school would require an extensive consultation with the local community.”

She added: “We will have two primary school pupils currently in the new term and the current staffing envisaged for August is one class teacher plus the school’s cluster head teacher shared with Newtonmore Primary School.”

Local Highland councillor Muriel Cockburn (SNP) said: “It is sad when school rolls drop to such levels, especially in a place like Laggan which has such a rich heritage.

“Schools are always at the heart of our communities especially in our small villages.

“I hope that any mothballing is for the short-term and future housing needs in the area focus on families.”

Laggan Community Council chairman Colin Morgan said: “We can only really comment as a community council if and when there is any formal consultation undertaken by Highland Council on the future of the school and not speculate on its future. We remain fully supportive of the school and its dedicated staff.”

Neighbouring school shut its doors for the last time a decade ago

Dalwhinnie Primary School shut for the last time a decade ago after its roll fell to just a couple of pupils.

It was one of the smallest schools in Scotland when it closed, ending 134 years of history and leaving a gaping hole in the community.

The roll had dropped to just three pupils and their parents decided to have the children educated at Newtonmore Primary School instead so that they could socialise with more kids.

The school was initially mothballed and then closed altogether after a lengthy public consultation by the council.

One Laggan resident, who did not wish to be named, told the Strathy: “This is a big blow for the village as it’s mostly holiday homes now with no new family moving in.

“It’s going to end up like Dalwhinnie.”

There were nine pupils enrolled at the Gergask in 2020/21. The roll hovered around the early to mid-20s throughout the mid-2010s.

• All local and Highlands school rolls can be found here

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