'The school without a school': Demand for update three years after blaze

The Highland Council agreed to build a new school after Park Primary pupils were moved to Invergordon Academy following a fire.

Parent group demand update after Park Primary School in Invergordon destroyed in blaze three years ago STV

A parent group representing a primary school in the Highlands that was demolished following a fire is demanding updates after the development of a new school was promised two years ago.

Children and staff were forced to flee Park Primary School on February 24, 2020, as flames tore through the building.

Pupils from the school were moved to Invergordon Academy, and demolition works tore down the remainder of the fire-stricken Victorian building in April 2022.

It was confirmed at a meeting of Highland Council in September 2021 that a new school building on the existing Park Primary site would be incorporated into the council’s capital programme.

It was also agreed that the fire-damaged main building and the nursery block at Park would be demolished and a completely new school building would be constructed.

Elizabeth McPhail, Park Parent Council chair, has said that parents have been “fighting” to get the school rebuilt almost three years later, as there has “not been much progress”.

She also said that children from the school are “missing out” and the parents are being forced to “fight for the basics” – such as PE lessons and school discos.

Mrs McPhail told STV News: “Three years ago our school went on fire, and ever since then we have been fighting to get the school rebuilt.

“We have fought for three years with very little help, and have had not much progress.

“We remain the school without a school.

“In the past three years we have had one face-to-face meeting and very infrequent meetings with council members as to the progress of the rebuild.

“We have had empty promises and constantly pushing the can down the road with very little to show for it. As parents we are so disappointed and feel that we cannot trust the Highland Council.

“We also don’t feel that we have very many options and it is a constant fight for even the basics for our children. Our kids go without regular PE lessons as there is no space for them to have PE.

“They miss out on school discos as there is nowhere to hold them. They have had to change when they have assemblies as the academy sports hall was not available – the result is that the nursery is no longer able to take part in the assembly.

“And many other small things that our children have to miss out on.”

Robertson Construction were appointed as the design and build contractor working in conjunction with the council’s in-house property teams to deliver the project.

However, the project was delayed over issues regarding Scottish Government funding.

Cromarty Firth ward councillor Molly Nolan said: “It is increasingly frustrating that the Scottish Government has not issued a decision on whether or not the Park Primary building replacement project will receive government funding.

“The pupils, parents and staff at Park Primary deserve a new school building at the earliest opportunity, and they deserve certainty around how it is going to be achieved.

“Whatever the outcome, I urge the Scottish Government to make a swift funding decision so that the council can move forward with its capital programme review and ultimately deliver a new Park Primary school building.”

Councillor John Finlayson, Education Committee Chair, said: “All project stakeholders were recently updated (May 2023) on progress with the school estate capital investment programme which includes Park Primary School.

“The Council’s Property design team are currently reviewing the new Park Primary Stage 2 design report and the project will then progress to Stage 3. This next stage will include the development of the detailed design and submission of the planning application for the new build.

“The Highland Council agreed at a meeting in March 2023 that design and planning work would continue for all major projects at pre-construction stage, including Park Primary School, pending the review of the Councils capital programme (agreed in December 2022) and the anticipated announcement from the Scottish Government on the Learning Estate Investment Programme Phase 3 funding bid.

“This course of action aims to ensure that any impact on the progress of these new school projects is minimised as far as possible.”

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