Strontian parents pioneer innovative school funding model
September 27 2018
The Highland community of Strontian has taken possession of a £900k primary school built after parents joined forces to reject proposals to refurbish and extend an existing 1970s building.
The radical step was taken to pursue a new build solution in order to provide modern accommodation for around 30 pupils by forming a community-led company to carry out the work, all of which was funded through a shares issue and grants.
Built on land owned by the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust the unique design has the distinction of being readily remodeled as four separate homes should future education requirements change.
Outlining the unconventional approach one parent, Jamie McIntyre, told the BBC: “Quite casually, we said 'how much to build a new school here?
"To their credit they went off and costed the plan and put it to the council and proposed the model we have here, which is that we finance, design and build the school and we lease it to the council for use as long they need it for a school.”
The school is currently being leased to Highland Council but should pupils ultimately relocate to a nearby secondary school conversion work can be carried out relatively quickly and easily.
Pupils and staff are set to move in on 30 October at which point the development loan will be converted to a mortgage.
Consequently interesting on a number of levels.
This reinterpretation of 'PPP' can be seen as development
of the People, by the People, for the People.
However that does make it progressive -- far from it.
We now have the provision of public services based on the capabilities of the parents rather than the needs of the children -- Bad.
Seems to be a halfway house to the Tory Free school idea down south -- how long will it be till the delivery of teaching joins the built environment in the locus of a pushy, politically aware and resource rich parental group?
Then there is the opportunity cost to the local housing stock where scarce public funds are being used for a purpose outside its original purpose?
Either the area does not need state help with housing or we now have increased homelessness or overcrowding.
Then there is the issue of ownership, contol and governance -- who now manages the resource and how did they get into that position of authority?
Sounds like a very weak local authority.
I suppose it didn’t offer a nice £££ return opportunity for the parents.
What has happened to the old school?
On the other hand, as the primary school function will be absorbed by the nearby high school buildings in 10 years (once the current PPP contract concludes), one can imagine The Highland Council were only too happy to not spend scarce money improving the existing 70s primary school.
This new school is perhaps an OTT alternative to that, but if in the longer term it provides affordable homes then it will ultimately be to the greater good for the community.
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Very strange set up which seems to involve grants and charity in the provision of mainstream public services and the quality of the social infrastructure being dependent on the efforts of the parents.
It might suit some as being a dimension to the new localism regarding public services but it then invites postcode prescribing where the rich and influential will get a better quality of service to the poor and disadvantaged.
Interesting to find out how much HC are renting the building for and how this compares to the running costs of the previous building?
Will provide an interesting data point regarding the costs involved in public infrastructure -- compare and contrast with the new school in Lerwick. However I am not sure that the idea will scale up well in other parts of Scotland.