Minister hails a new future for education in Wick

14th November 2012 from Caithness Courier

Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell is “very impressed” by plans for the new Wick High School.

He gave his backing to the £19.8 million project during a visit to the school on Friday when he was shown round the premises by rector Thomas McIntyre and met staff and pupils.

The cost of the scheme is being met by Highland Council and the Scottish Futures Trust.

Mr Russell said Wick High seems “like a very good school with a great deal happening” but he acknowledged that the premises need to be replaced.

“Buildings are not the be-all and end-all of education but this one clearly needs replacing and so the work being done by the council and the trust is very welcome. I think it will make a difference,” he said in a brief interview with the Caithness Courier.

Mr Russell was impressed the school is “actively involved” in planning what happens. “That is very, very important,” he said.

Asked about the controversy over plans to close Wick library and swimming pool and put these facilities in the new community school, Mr Russell said that will be a decision for the council and the trust.

“I don’t interfere with these decisions. The negotiation about what is in a new school is always a tough one. Everybody wants lots of things to happen but I am sure it will come to a good conclusion. Negotiation is important and I am sure the outcome will be positive,” said Mr Russell, who was pleased to get an opportunity to meet staff and pupils.

“It has been very nice to meet people. They have been very positive,” he said.

Regarding the criticism which has been levelled about the timescale for the curriculum for excellence, Mr Russell said: “Far from being criticised, we should be very excited that such an important innovation is taking place in Scotland. I think the curriculum is revolutionising what young people learn. It’s revolutionising their prospects. I think parents should be excited about it and supportive of it,” added Mr Russell.

Caithness civic leader and Wick Highland councillor Gail Ross was delighted that Mr Russell visited the school.

“Everything the head teacher and teachers are doing here is extremely positive and I think it is a great boost for the pupils and staff to have a ministerial visit,” she said.

“Everybody has been very welcoming and the reaction to Mike Russell coming here has been really positive, as it should be. He is doing great things for education in Scotland,” added Mrs Ross.

Work on the new Wick High, which will also act as the new South Primary - involving the merging of the existing South school and Pulteneytown Academy - will begin in September 2013 and is due to be completed in July 2015.

Construction on the other new primary school in Wick is expected to begin in May 2014 and be completed in June 2015, although costs have not been finalised. It will accommodate pupils from the existing North and Hillhead primary schools. All the work is to be carried out by Hub North Scotland Limited.

During his trip to Caithness, Mr Russell heard about North Highland Connections’ plans to create cultural hubs at Ham House and visited the new engineering facility at North Highland College.

“The college has a pivotal role to play in our work to open up employment opportunities for young people across the country. There are numerous challenges in equipping rural areas with the right skills to enhance the economy,” he said.

“North Highland Connections provides a valuable service, including educational opportunities as part of their work to enrich the cultural heritage of the area. I hope to come away from Caithness with greater personal insight on how the various parts of education fit together,” added Mr Russell.

He ended the visit by attending the Light of the North festival in Dunbeath, held annually in honour of Neil Gunn, who was born in the village.

Caithness Courier:

Talk to us

Get in touch so we can discuss your business needs, or just fill out the form to receive regular updates.

Contact Us

Get updates