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School fears as third of pupils suffer breathing problems

Parents are considering boycotting Broadford Primary in Skye over long-running health issues.

Concerned: Tansy Grigor-Taylor and son Archie with Broadford Community School Working Group chairman Hamish Fraser.
Concerned: Tansy Grigor-Taylor and son Archie with Broadford Community School Working Group chairman Hamish Fraser. STV

By Iain Ramage

Worried parents are considering boycotting a Highland school over long-running health issues.

Patience is running out at the primary school on Skye where a third of pupils have been diagnosed with breathing problems.

Archie Grigor-Taylor, eight, first had breathing problems after starting at Broadford Primary when his family moved to Skye three years ago.

His mother says he was previously in good health. He's since been diagnosed with childhood asthma.

Making his pitch to Highland Council, the P4 pupil said: "A new school, so when people come into P1 they don't get asthma straight away and it helps them do better."

A survey of parents revealed a third of the pupils had been diagnosed with a breathing problem.

'You can see the damp crawling up the walls. You can see the plaster falling.'
Tansy Grigor-Taylor

Archie's mother, Tansy Grigor-Taylor, said: "You can see the damp crawling up the walls. You can see the plaster falling.

"They're still being educated in classrooms where the teachers have to start their day by cleaning the condensation from the window sills.

"It's an inherent problem in the building and no amount of fixing the roof or tidying up a downpipe can solve the problem of a damp building in one of the most exposed school sites in Scotland."

Some parents are considering a boycott of the school.

Broadford Community School Working Group chairman Hamish Fraser, a former long-serving Highland councillor, said: "Parents have considered, and probably will consider more seriously if nothing happens in the next few weeks in relation to what's going to happen here, the health and long-term wellbeing of their children.

"In that case, they may want to say 'well we don't want to educate them at this school, you find us somewhere we can educate them safely'."

Asked if the region's education chairman, Skye councillor and retired headteacher John Finlayson would be comfortable having his children attend the school, he said: "Well, obviously, if I were a parent I'd be very concerned and very clearly the parents at Broadford are very concerned at this time."

A replacement school has been on the cards for years. The education chairman ranks Broadford a priority but says the timescale depends on Scottish Government funding.

A spokeswoman for Highland Council said: "Investing in improvements to our Highland school estate is a priority and a subject of great importance to all parents and stakeholders within our communities.

"The council is working hard to deliver the Scottish Government commitment to expand early learning and childcare provision by August 2020.

"This is one of the key priorities of the council, as is the commitment to continue the programme of refurbishment and renovation of Highland schools."

She added: "The parent council survey was conducted over 18 months ago.

"Since then the school has had a number of improvement works carried out, including the modular unit classroom has been removed/replaced, the roof has been recovered/repaired, toilets have had work carried out, works carried out to windows and works are also being scoped to replace electrical distribution boards.

"Other improvement works carried out are as follows - the internals of the warm air heaters were cleaned, the water system/installation was risk assessed with a galvanised cold-water tank by-passed and new hot water cylinder installed, thermostatic valves were replaced, and new drinking water fountains installed including adding bottle water fillers and the water system was cleaned, flushed and disinfected."

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