North Bute parents make school’s case

Pupils in P3-5 at North Bute Primary at their regular tea room, held in the village hall in Port Bannatyne - just one of many links with the local community which the school's parent council wants to develop.
Pupils in P3-5 at North Bute Primary at their regular tea room, held in the village hall in Port Bannatyne - just one of many links with the local community which the school's parent council wants to develop.

Three members of the parent council at North Bute Primary in Port Bannatyne gave a presentation to Bute and Cowal councillors in Dunoon on Tuesday.

The parents hope to persuade Argyll and Bute Council to make a policy change in line with recommendations contained in a recent report from the Commission on Rural Education in Scotland - specifically that “local authorities should encourage and accept help with school fabric and maintenance from parents and communities where appropriate”.

Reeni Kennedy-Boyle, Susan Mackay and parent council chair Liz Ferguson set out the case for North Bute Primary School being the pilot for such a policy which could lead to the development of a working model for the whole of Argyll and Bute.

Mrs Kennedy-Boyle said: “During the presentation we highlighted the fact that had the school closure programme succeeded the council would have lost around £213,000 from GAE [grant-aided expenditure] and had additional travel costs, estimated in 2010 at £38,000, every year.

“We pointed out the retention of the GAE since 2010 till now is more than the cost of refurbishment; however, we recognise that council finance is not that simple.

“We understand the constraints placed on capital projects and therefore proposed a phased approach to the refurbishment that chunks down the works. This would also mean that a more flexible approach to procurement could be taken ensuring local companies are able to bid for the business.

“By working with the community additional funding streams could be looked at to match the budget allocated by the council. The policy change would also mean that pledges of work by skilled local craftsmen and parents could be realised, presenting a saving for tax payers.

“We made the case that investing in North Bute Primary is not just a matter of bricks and mortar, the importance of the school to the local community cannot be underestimated. Our events programme is open to all and well attended by family, friends and the wider community.

“For example the tea room run by the children isn’t just about learning enterprise and understanding money, it means our older residents have an opportunity to interact with the children and create learning opportunities that aren’t available in the classroom.

“We highlighted that North Bute team are used as exemplars of co-operative learning, that curriculum for excellence is not restricted to the boundaries of the school wall, it is delivered with strong community links, and that the retention of rural education delivered at North Bute ensures good choices for parents of Isle of Bute which has a faith school and the joint campus.

“It also supports a cluster of different approaches that helps professional development for our teachers.

“Refurbishing North Bute Primary School should be seen in the context of long term investment in a ‘resilient and supportive community’ with aspiration to grow which in turn supports our children to develop as ‘confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens’.

“The capital budget allocated to North Bute sits at around £200,000. It is important to us that this money is not used reactively but part of a phased programme of works that secure the long term future of rural education on Bute. “It is hoped that the committee will take forward our proposal, and that the administration of Argyll and Bute Council adopt a new policy and work with us, which we believe works in harmony with their desire for ‘a coherent rural regeneration strategy to support economic outcomes for rural areas’.”

* More on this story in the new issue of The Buteman - on sale from Thursday, June 6.