Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s plan to integrate secondary 1 and 2 students from Lionel School in Ness into the Nicolson Institute has been met with opposition from the community.
Tomorrow, Friday November 7th, is the last day that the public can send consultation responses, after which the council will put together a proposal document taking account of comments from written representations, views of pupils and staff and from those attending the public meeting.
The public consulations will be reviewed by Education Scotland who will make their own recommendation to the Comhairle.
All reports will be considered by the Education Committee in February before going to full Council for a decision.
After that, if approved, it goes to the Scottish Government who have time to ‘call in’ the decision.
In a letter to Comhairle Chief Executive Malcolm Burr, Martin and Jennifer Adil-Smith of Knockaird said that they are opposed to the proposal in the strongest possible terms on the grounds that there is no economic or educational merit to the proposal.
They also stated that there are such serious defects within the consultation documentation as to invalidate the process, necessitating that it is abandoned in its entirety.
The letter said: “It should be basic common sense that all consultees are able to see the current roll of students, the projected roll for the next five years, and relevant comment about the capacity of The Nicolson for each of the years.
“We are deeply concerned that such basic information is lacking and, having made enquiries, are dismayed to learn that S1 and S2 at the Nicolson is already oversubscribed, with science classes being taught in computer rooms without the benefit of specialist equipment.
“Further, we are shocked to discover that class sizes regularly exceed 30 pupils, and some have nearly 40.
They added: “It is difficult to see how the Comhairle are adequately resourcing the existing student intake, let alone how additional students can be catered for.
The letter continues: “Further, there is no mention of any of the difficulties at the Nicolson, particularly around the control of children exiting and entering during the lunch hour, or the difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff.
“We were shocked at such blatant bias, and appalled that the Comhairle would allow the publication of such a document without moderation. As such, the consultation process is defective and should be abandoned.”
There are currently eight pupils attending secondary education at Lionel School.
The council proposal states: “Comhairle nan Eilean Siar aims to allocate resources in a way which will secure the best possible educational experience for pupils in the Western Isles.
“Implicit in this key objective is the effective deployment of resources in order to secure continuous improvement in educational achievement and attainment, and to provide better facilities in the most viable settings.”
Since August 2012, Lionel School has functioned as a satellite of The Nicolson Institute.