Two heads and no pupils: council funds empty school

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A SCOTS council is shelling out at least £100,000 to have two headteachers at a tiny primary school with no children.

Highland council is understood to be paying the present and former heads at Torridon Primary, Wester Ross, at least £48,000 each even though the last pupil left last week.

Three part time staff, including cleaners, are being kept on at the mothballed school, meaning the bill will run well into six figures.

The tiny primary school has two head teachers – and no pupils

The council claims it is necessary to keep staff on for “administrative” reasons ahead of mothballing at an unspecified date.

The current acting headteacher, Peter Fenton, is in charge of the “ghost school” but his predecessor, Anne Macrea, is also on full pay despite being suspended almost two years ago.

Ms Macrae was removed from her post following a series of poor inspections at the school going as far back as 2004, when the school taught eight pupils.

The last remaining pupil moved to a  school in Kinlochewe last week.

One local resident said keeping the school going was a “staggering waste of taxpayers’ money”.

And Robert Oxley, Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s downright absurd that taxpayers are paying for even one head teacher for this empty school, let a alone two.

“With no one to educate either the teachers need to be transferred or let go. Taxpayers can’t afford to pay for staff to do nothing all day. “

Despite keeping Torridon Primary open, Highland Council – which is reportedly looking for cuts worth £40m by 2015 – has been at the centre of several rows over education cutbacks.

Last year, the council announced it was cutting £300,000 of funding to a traditional music school.

The council stopped the cash to the National Centre of Excellence inTraditional Music, Plockton.

The school was saved after the Scottish Government pledged £600,000 in a partnership with universities.

The council was also forced to backtrack on a recent plan to get rid of 344 classroom assistants in primary schools.

It was recently revealed that the council is spending £250 a day ferrying a pupil to school in Fort William from the remote Ardnamurchan peninsula.

Ms Macrea, meanwhile, is the subject of three petitions to Highland Council, one demanding she be given her job back and another insisting reasons be given for her removal.

Supporters claim the council  ignored Ms Macrae’s accomplishments, such as inviting famous faces to come and talk to the pupils.

The school’s former cook, Maggie Smith, said: “Anne Macrae has never had proper support from the council and now they are treating us all this way – all the other staff have been treated poorly, too.”

A Highland Council spokesman said: “The school no longer has any pupils as two families have withdrawn their children.

“The acting head teacher remains at work, attending to the administrative work necessary before the school is mothballed.

“We are liaising with the staff to redeploy them.”

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