In a bold approach that focused attention both locally and nationally on a vital issue for the Highlands, Conservative Cllr Helen Crawford presented a Motion for the Full Council on 11th January 2024. The Motion called upon Highland Council to declare a School Estate Emergency due to Highland having the worst school buildings in Scotland.
Cllr Crawford called for cross-party action, asking all Highland Councillors to champion this motion for their Wards.
She said: “I am not interested in what has happened before, and I am not pointing the finger at anyone. I am focusing on what we can do here and now. Thousands of our children are sitting in mouldy, cold, substandard building. Our fantastic teaching and support staff are spending their working life in these buildings. Each one of us represents a Ward that has a school, or schools in it which are rated “C-poor” for condition. I invite each Councillor to not only support this Motion but to champion this Motion for your Ward.”
Cllr Crawford’s Motion gained cross-party support, but in a shameful outcome it was voted down by 35 votes to 28 votes after a politically-motivated amendment was submitted by SNP Councillor Emma Knox. That amendment removed all reference to the word “Declaration” and all of the specific actions detailed in the original Motion, a craven attempt to hide the true extent of the disaster facing Highland schools.
Cllr Crawford and our Scottish Conservative Group will continue to campaign on this issue and will continue to call upon the SNP-Independent led Council to speak up on behalf of our crumbling Highland schools. On the refusal of the SNP-led administration to back the Motion, Cllr Crawford said, “It beggars belief that the SNP would not champion this Motion themselves. It would have cost nothing, other than some officer time, to make this Declaration, to raise our Highland voice and to bring full attention, nationally, to the disparity that we have here in Highland. All 74 Highland Councillors should have backed this today.”
You can watch Helen describing the problem to national media at https://www.facebook.com/100078229801394/videos/a.376816948269296/344113784920428 and https://fb.watch/pGA8qSlcQo/
The full text of the Motion follows:
*Highland School Estate Emergency Plan*
FULL WORDING OF THE MOTION
School Estate Emergency Declaration
This Council notes:
1. Across Scotland the percentage of schools graded as ‘A-Good’ for Condition and Suitability is almost 91%. In Highland, the percentage of schools graded ‘Good’ is under 20%. 34% of primary school buildings across Highland have a rating of ‘C-Poor’ for Condition, compared with 6% for the rest of Scotland. 37% of secondary school buildings across Highland are rated ‘C-Poor’ for Condition, compared with 10% for the rest of Scotland. The deteriorated fabric and condition of school buildings across Highland is acute and significantly worse than those of the rest of Scotland.
2. This Council hugely values education and accepts the condition and suitability of school buildings impacts significantly on the educational opportunities and experiences of our children and young people as well as on the working environment of our valued teaching and support staff.
3. This Council’s applications to the Learning Estate Improvement Plan (LEIP) Phase Three, were wholly unsuccessful - despite the acute need for funding in Highland. And despite the fact that 25% of Scotland’s secondary schools, rated C-Poor for Condition, are located in Highland. And 33% of all Scotland’s primary schools, rated C-Poor for Condition, are located in Highland.
4. The Leader of the Council wrote to the Cabinet Secretary for Education following on from her statement in Parliament that she will be taking forward further engagement and collaboration with COSLA to explore how the Scottish Government can address the remaining sub-standard condition schools, and the additional schools required due to population growth.
5. To date, despite the undertaking given by the Cabinet Secretary for Education, no further funding has been identified by the Scottish Government to improve the condition of the Highland school estate.
Therefore, Highland Council declares a School Estate Emergency and will:
• establish a School Emergency Action Plan to address the shortcomings in Highland’s school estate,
• task the Leader of the Council to write to The First Minister, the Cabinet Minister for Social Justice, and the Cabinet Secretary for Education, outlining the urgent need for additional resources to address the disparity between Highland school estate and the rest of Scotland,
• task the Leader of the Council to invite the Cabinet Secretary for Education to attend the next Full Council Committee and answer questions from Members regarding the funding shortfall.
More coverage of this story is available at: