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Highlands worst in Scotland for the condition of its school estate

By Scott Maclennan

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Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville welcome the improvement nationally.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville welcome the improvement nationally.

The Highlands has by far the worst education estate in Scotland with one in three primaries and one in four secondaries in a “poor” condition.

A National Statistics Publication for Scotland shows that more than one in four secondary schools and one in three primaries in the region have major defects or are inadequate.

Buildings can get one of four ratings – good, satisfactory, poor (showing major defects, not operating adequately) and bad (risk of failure).

Nationally, more than 35 per cent of primaries in a poor condition are in the Highland Council area – 67 out of a total of 187 schools. The next worst was North Lanarkshire with 27.

Just over one in four – 11 out of 41 – secondaries are considered in a poor condition, far more than any other local authority area – the City of Edinburgh is the second worst.

The numbers also confirmed that 19 schools have been substantially refurbished while 16 have been newly built since 2012.

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville failed to take into account the situation in the Highlands when she described the numbers as "the best statistics since records began".

She was commenting on the improvement seen nationally where the proportion of schools in good or satisfactory condition rose by 0.3 per cent in 2020 to 90.2 per cent – 29 per cent higher than in April 2007.

She said: “These latest statistics illustrate how that investment is making a real difference to thousands of children and young people. In terms of measuring how our schools are improving, these are the best statistics since records began.

“And we want to do more. Our £2 billion Learning Estate Investment Programme will see schools upgraded across Scotland, benefitting around 50,000 pupils. Councils will play a big part in modernising schools and it is important that we work closely with them to deliver for children and young people across the country.”

A Highland Council spokesperson said: “The Highland Council has one of the largest school estates in Scotland with over 200 schools spread across an area which covers a third of Scotland.

"We do have an ageing school estate and are continually working to make improvements to our education environment, with 11 schools identified as priorities in our capital plan.

"We are continuing to progress on key school projects, funded through our capital programme with the support of the Scottish Government. Additionally, in June significant capital funding of £54 million was identified for investment in five Highland schools.

“As a council, we face various challenges in our ability to address school estate improvements such as our borrowing capacity, impacts on our budget of capital investment, spend of other resources, and grant funding made available by the Scottish Government.

"These challenges are made more complex, and difficult, in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

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