Schools in Inverness-shire, Skye and Ross-shire are set to be the major beneficiaries in a proposed £54 million schools improvement scheme.
Highland Councillors will meet later this month to discuss the potential multi-million-pound investment at five schools.
Culloden Academy, Beauly, Dunvegan and Park Primary Schools alongside St Clement’s School have been earmarked for the financial boost.
Highland Council needs to improve the ageing buildings and tackle increasing pupil numbers and depopulation.
The extra £9 million funding for Culloden comes after fraught negotiations between local councillors, parents and council officials.
In 2018, the council agreed to expand the school to alleviate overcrowding. But in May, it was revealed that the project was years behind and would need as much as £5 million extra just to handle the most urgent capacity issues.
Local councillors recently promised to bring a motion on 24 June to demand full funding for the Culloden project and address a decade of projected overcrowding.
In addition to the £7.718 million already agreed, the £8 to £9 million proposed in the new school investment plan could expand the school enough to meet capacity requirements through 2029.
Cash set aside for new schools and upgrades in the years ahead
The council has said the new Dunvegan primary will cost between £12 – £15 million but this could be reduced by £2.5 million if they secure Scottish Gaelic funding.
The school on Skye is part of a master plan which includes housing and a sports field which should further support the project costs for the school build.
Highland Council said Beauly School is one of their oldest and has some “seriously substandard buildings” and needs a new nursery.
It is estimated a replacement for Park Primary in Invergordon, which was mostly destroyed in a fire, would cost between £14 million and £17 million.
Good facilities and a safe learning environment is fundamental for the education of all our young people across the Highlands and a key priority for this administration.”
Councillor John Finlayson
Facilities at St Clement’s School in Dingwall have been rated poor for both condition and suitability for education with a replacement potentially costing £13 million.
Skye councillor John Finlayson said good school facilities are “fundamental” for the education of young people.
He said: “Good facilities and a safe learning environment is fundamental for the education of all our young people across the Highlands and a key priority for this administration.
“This funding is excellent news for parents and pupils and everyone in these five communities. Approval of such significant investment will be the culmination of long-awaited hopes and dreams of very many people in these towns and villages and by progressing these priorities, we enable other school projects to move forward and become a reality.
“We will be communicating with parents to let them know of the next steps in the detailed planning process.”
Highland Council has also identified further school improvements required across their school estate with new ones at Stratton and Tornagrain required in the next seven years.
A new secondary school needed in Inverness by 2028/29 and a feasibility study will be carried out to expand Gaelic provision in the Highland capital.
There could also be improvements at Broadford Primary School, a replacement for Nairn Academy and upgrades at Kiltearn Primary School.
Councillors also want to carry out a review of the roll pressures and funding streams and a review of school catchment areas across all schools in Inverness.
Council leader hails proposed schools investment
Highland Council leader Margaret Davidson said the school improvements projects being considered later this month are part of a “wide range” of schemes.
She said: “The priority education projects are among a wide range of capital investments we are proposing.
“We are also planning additional spending on our road infrastructure and estate, waste strategy, ICT refresh, digital transformation and fleet. Detailed proposals will be brought back to council in October as part of the wider work looking at the capital plan.
“In addition to the phenomenal investment we announced in March for roads, visitor management, an economic prosperity fund, and money for Wards for local issues and priorities, we are proposing a further £10M for investment in our communities.
“Our investment plans take into account the need for medium term financial sustainability and keeping sufficient non ear-marked reserves to mitigate against future risks and uncertainty, whilst investing in recovery.”