We have had reports from several people present at the recent Connel Community Council of an announcement made to the meeting by senior councillor in the current ruling coalition at Argyll and Bute Council.
Councillor Duncan Macintyre is reliably said to have informed the meeting that Connel is to get ‘a big new school’.
Since Achaleven in Connel was one of the schools on the council’s successive lists of those proposed for closure, this comes as something of a surprise.
Ten years or so ago, Achalevel had a roll of around 63 children and the village today retains plenty of children to fill a healthy school. Parents withdrew their children from the school because of what they saw as management problems they had been unable to have addressed.
So why, now, would Connel get a new school, especially since, as we understand it, there has been no change to the circumstances which led to the parents’ abandonment of the school. This means that there is no guarantee that the same circumstances would not obtain in any new school.
Up the road from Connel, at Dunbeg, fifty new houses are being built – with no room in the local school there for all of the children they would house.
Dunbeg would be a much more realistic location for any ‘big new school’. Connel folk are realistic enough to feel the same and would be happy to see circumstances come about that would make it possible for their existing school to be taken out of mothballs.
Puzzled by the logic of this proposed new build – and by the launch of such a project in the current financial circumstances, we made enquiries in quarters we would expect to be fully aware of any plans for a new school in Connel.
No one we approached has heard of it.
This curiosity raises three possibilities.
- Are those we talked to seriously out of the loop? Given that two are members of the administration, that would seem unlikely but not impossible, If this is the case, the question is less about the announcement than about the logic of the educational provision envisaged – and the failure first to resolve the primary issue in Connel.
- Is a new school for Connel no more than an ambitious notion of Councillor Macintyre’s that has not yet progressed beyond an idea? If this is so, announcing it in this way is profoundly misleading.
- Worse, is this the crackle of pork in the pan with the May 2012 council elections in the offing? If this is so, such an announcement might be thought more than misleading.
Councillor Macintyre’s colleague, Councillor Ellen Morton, who is Depute Leader of the Council as well as Education Spokesperson, might care to offer Connel Community Council her authoritative version of what lies ahead in educational provision for the village.