OUTRAGED Ross-shire parents fear their community’s school could close for good following a staffing crisis which has forced Highland Council to take dramatic action.
Shocked parents of pupils at Strathconon Primary were stunned to learn on Monday that the school will close at the end of this week and their children will be expected to attend Marybank Primary after the Christmas break.
Parents who feel they have been left in the dark over the matter yesterday demanded answers and accused the local authority of poor planning over recruitment.
Highland Council has written to parents and carers of the 17 primary and two nursery pupils currently attending the school to advise them that "due to ongoing staffing challenges at Strathconon Primary School, the council has a critical situation in the new year and pupils will have to transfer to Marybank Primary School until the council recruits new staff for the school".
Bill Alexander, director of care and learning, said: "As both existing teaching staff are moving to other posts it will not be possible to have new staff in place for the new term.
"We have considered various options for dealing with this situation, and have concluded that the least problematic option is to provide education for the children at an alternative location, until staffing can be put in place.
"Parents are being informed by letter, that their children will, in the new year, be transported each day to Marybank Primary School. Staff will plan this week for the children to visit the Marybank classes to help ease the transition.
"This is an unfortunate situation, but colleagues will work at making the best of it. We are interviewing for the position of principal teacher in the first week of term, and the class teacher post is being re-advertised."
Nine of the 10 families affected by the move met this week to consider options and glean as much information as possible ahead of what promises to be an unsettled Christmas break.
One of them, Lynsey Stewart, said: "The way this has been handled is completely unacceptable. They have not given us time to react or given enough due care and attention to the children’s feelings. We found out on Monday of this week with letters home with the children. The first some parents knew about it was on social media."
Ironically, parents themselves masterminded a successful recruitment campaign for a teacher two years ago after deciding to take matters into their own hands.
While Marybank Primary is 12 miles away from Strathconon, it’s understood that for some children, the new arrangement will mean an 18-mile bus trip.
Ms Stewart said Highland Council had questions to answer about management of the situation given that both staff are moving to new roles within the same local authority area.
She said: "Perhaps Highland Council needs to consider its recruitment process.
"People have lost trust. We were told teachers are like gold dust two years ago. Here we are again with the same reactive council."
She admitted concerns that despite assurances, the school could close for good once the new arrangements are in place, particularly given that Strathconon has maintenance issues needing to be addressed.
"The community is terrified that could be the end of the school. We have lost faith in Highland Council."