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Formal public consultation starts on closure of Badenoch primary school

By Gavin Musgrove

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Highland Council is proposing the permanent closure of Gergask Primary School in Laggan.
Highland Council is proposing the permanent closure of Gergask Primary School in Laggan.

Highland Council education chiefs have started a formal public consultation to shut Laggan's primary school.

Gergask Primary School was mothballed just over a year ago and its permanent closure would leave the south of Badenoch without any classrooms.

Not so long ago Gergask was a thriving primary school at the heart of the community.

But its roll of pupils in the 20s in the mid 2010s has gradually fallen away with some locals pinning the blame on the lack of local affordable homes.

Children from the village are now being taught at Newtonmore Primary School around 10 miles away.

Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes told the Strathy: “I’m very sorry to see the council begin the consultation to formally close Gergask Primary School.

“If we want to reverse depopulation in South Badenoch, it’s imperative we have jobs and also affordable housing – and to attract families to the area the school is a big part in that.

“I would urge all Laggan residents to have their say so the council is fully aware of local feeling.”

Highland Council launched the public consultation on Monday which will run until November 10 proposing to discontinue education provision at the Laggan school.

There will also be a public meeting with local authority education officials and at least one local Highland councillor in Laggan Community Hall on October 3 starting at 6.30pm where residents can make their feelings known.

Ian Jackson, Highland Council education officer, said that the school was mothballed in September, last year, after the total roll fell to just two pupils.

He states in his report: "In April, earlier this year, informal discussions were held with local parents and with Laggan Community Council about the future of the school.

"There was little interest from local parents in attending the meeting, and the community council were of the view that a statutory consultation would be appropriate in order to come to a decision on the school’s future.

"There are a very small number of children resident with the Gergask Primary School catchment, all of whom have alternative arrangements for their education.

"The results of the informal discussions would suggest there is no demand for children to attend Gergask Primary School, and that the school is no longer viable."

Gergask Primary School which has an overall capacity for 44 pupils was rated as 'satisfactory' for building condition and 'poor' for the educational suitability of the building at the time it was mothballed.

From 2019-20 to 2023-24, there were five placing requests to leave the school and one request to join the roll.

The school did also operate a nursery class when there were children to attend it.

A final recommendation on the school's future is expected to be made next spring and would need to be confirmed by the full Highland Council.

Scottish Ministers would then have the final say.

More information can be found at http://www.highland.gov.uk/schoolconsultations

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