Gym facilities ‘a disgrace’ - parent council

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The Stornoway Primary Parent Council have labelled the gym and pupil changing facilities at the school a disgrace as they lobby Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to bring facilities in line with those at rural schools on the island.

In a letter submitted to Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil, MSP Alasadair Allan as well as local councillors the Parent Council of the school, which is the largest primary school in the entire Western Isles, insists such works are long overdue.

Pleas for upgrading the school gym facilities have been made for several years now and in their letter the Parent Council refer to the amalgamation of pupils from the now closed Sandwick School where parents were promised by the council that children would only move into a provision that was better than where they were.

The letter reads: “We strongly feel that it is nothing short of disgraceful that our children have to put up with such out-dated facilities and as the second biggest school in the Western Isles with a school roll of over 400-children, something should have been done about this situation a long time ago.”

The Comhairle have acknowledged the contact from the Parent Council but they stress the current facilities are adequate although they have not ruled out an upgrade in the future.

A spokesperson for the Comhairle commented: “Stornoway Primary is a good school that provides an education appropriate for all its pupils.

“It meets all  the experiences and outcomes of Curriculum for Excellence and has adequate accommodation and appropriate Hall and Gym facilities for a school of its size.

“Building work at the school has been prioritised, resourced and undertaken consistent with similar practice in all other schools.

“The Comhairle is working hard across all communities to ensure that our schools are upgraded to a Category B minimum status. 

“Work is currently being planned to audit the outdoor play requirements in all schools and to upgrade Hall facilities where necessary.”

The situation at Stornoway Primary has now reached a point where some pupils are not meeting the curriculum requirement of two-hours physical education a week says the Parent Council.

They also claim pupils have to change into their PE kits in classrooms due to unavailable changing rooms.

They write: “The curriculum requirement for each child is to have two-hours physical education and while the timetable may show that each child indeed receives this, the reality is that a whole class cannot use the gym at any one time during sport team activities and therefore some children are not meeting the curriculum requirement.

“The gym changing room has been out of use for many years due to a lack of storage facilities and children have to resort to changing out of their uniforms into gym clothes in their own classes.”

Councillor for Stornoway south Rae Mackenzie has backed the calls for an upgrade.

“ The Stornoway Primary school is extremely overcrowded,” he said.

“For instance, changing facilities are not acceptable for this day and age and there is simply not enough space for teachers and pupils throughout the school.

“The school is the second biggest school in terms of pupil numbers in the Western Isles and has had a huge influx of pupils after the closure of Sandwick School and additional nursery spaces.

“At the time of school closures, the receiving schools were promised extra funding to ensure the pupils had at least the same or better facilities than the ones they were leaving. This has not happened in the case of Stornoway Primary.

“After meeting with Stornoway Primary Parent Council, I raised this issue at the Education committee and the Director assured me he was going to meet with the Parent Council on this issue.

“Each child is entitled to equal opportunity and there is a danger that the Stornoway primary are falling behind other island schools.”

The new schools built around the Western Isles in Daliburgh, Balivanich, Barvas and Point boast excellent gym and sports facilities and the Stornoway Primary Parent Council are now seeking support for essential works to upgrade their own.

The add: “Whilst we acknowledge and appreciate some work has been carried out at the school, most of these were essential repairs that simply had to be addressed.

“None of the areas that require attention to bring the school up to an adequate standard have happened, such as the gym, changing facilities or lack of storage.”

Western Isles MP Angus MacNeil confirmed he is looking into the matter.

He said: “I have this week been contacted by the Stornoway Primary Parent Council on this matter and have now written to the Comhairle’s Director of Education and Children’s Services in support of the parents’ calls for better facilities at the second largest school in Na h-Eileanan an Iar.”