Stornoway Primary is the largest, in terms of pupils numbers, in the Western Isles but the school is in desperate need of modernisation and upgrading says Councillor Rae Mackenzie.
The Stornoway South Councillor is leading calls for what he says are long overdue improvements to the school with vocal backing from fellow councillor Gordon Murray and Stornoway Primary Parent Council.
With a school roll, between the Primary and Nursery, approaching 600 Councillor Mackenzie says the current gym and changing areas are woefully inadequate.
He said: “The gym is inadequate, storage and changing facilities and outside play areas, along with an adequate playing pitch are all required.
Pupils changing in classrooms or toilets is not good enough and play areas are inadequate for a school this size. With the increase in pre-school numbers, every classroom has been lost to the primary.
“While it is great that the new schools have adequate facilities and all-weather pitches, it is disgraceful that the Stornoway Primary puts up with a pitch that is only playable for as little as three months a year.”
Councillor Mackenzie has long campaigned on the matter of upgrades at the school and he is urging the Comhairle to finally place the upgrades on the list of Capital Projects.
He continued: “The council and education department have continually refused to consider improvements as a priority on the Capital Budgets, up until now, but it is hoped not only by me, but by the parent council, the teaching staff, parents, and at least some councillors that the case for these improvements will be recognised in the 2018-2023 Capital Programme.
“A recent report to the Education committee in September (which I had asked for) stated that ‘a significant investment of £4m has been spent on the school in recent years’.
“I asked for the breakdown of this and it reveals most of the expenditure had been spent from 2001-2012 as standard essential maintenance, mostly on the roof.”
Fellow Stornoway South Councillor Gordon Murray echoed his colleagues’ calls for funds to be allocated to Stornoway Primary.
He commented: “After many years of campaigning on this issue alongside the parent council and councillors Mackenzie and Nicolson, I am hopeful that the chair of education, councillor Angus McCormack will act according to their wishes for what other schools throughout the islands have - we look for the other councillors to support the parents and children of Stornoway Primary.”
Stornoway Primary Parent Council have expressed their hopes that the Comhairle and Sportsscotland can work together to benefit the school.
They said: “Pupils, staff, Parent Council and Council Members have been highlighting the need, and importance for improvements to facilities and have made requests frequently and consistently over the last number of years.
“We have welcomed a number of Councillors to visit the school to highlight the pressures faced, and we are keen to work with the Comhairle and Sportscotland to bring forward developments which will benefit the pupils in the school and the wider community, both now and in the future.
“The Parent Council are delighted to be able to support the work of the school and Council and have contributed almost 90,000 pounds since 2008.
“We recognise and appreciate that the excellent teaching staff are meeting all aspects of the curriculum, however we should be striving to promote excellence for our children. We should also ensure they have access to appropriate and modern facilities; at the moment the sports facilities do not meet Sportscotland recommendations.”
A spokesperson for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar added: “At the December series of meetings, the Comhairle agreed that consideration of capital investment at Stornoway Primary School be considered when determining the balance of unallocated capital funds.
“Facilities have improved in Stornoway Primary as they have across the entire school estate. Stornoway Primary has all the resources and building facilities to meet both teaching and pupil needs.
“The school estate investment plan and criteria used to undertake work is transparent and has been unanimously approved by members.”