Grounded flights could impact Tiree School leadership

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Stopping Oban’s air links to Tiree could have an impact on the island’s high school.

Although Tiree will still have flight connections with Glasgow, new fears have now been expressed by Dr John Holliday, convenor of the island’s community council after Argyll and Bute Council announced its scheduled flights service from Oban Airport would be suspended for at least six weeks from mid-May following a failure to agree a new tender.

More than £1.5 million in council funding was made available for the three-year contract but the council rejected the one and only tender submitted because it was out of budget. A second tendering process has now started with a deadline in early May.

After Tiree’s head teacher left the school at the end of last year, Argyll and Bute Council decided to send in Peter Bain, head of Oban High School, to manage it for a six-month trial period, tasked with implementing an improvement plan in addition to running his own school back on the mainland.

Tiree High School has 30 pupils with 50 in the primary classes, while Oban High School has more than 1,000 students.

Dr Holliday said: ‘Mr Bain has been able to spend several days a week on Tiree, flying in on the Oban plane. He has been accompanied at times by members of his staff, with the island school’s teachers travelling to Oban High School in return, in an attempt to strengthen the links between the two institutions.

‘With the air link severed, there are fears that this new arrangement will, at the very least, become more difficult.’

Dr Holliday told The Oban Times that one of the ‘biggest casualties’ would be the new management arrangement between the Tiree and Oban schools.

‘It was set to run for an initial six months, which does end in May. But, so far, the signs are that it is working. Without an air link between Tiree and its regional centre, the option of keeping it going in its present form beyond May is looking less attractive,’ he said.

A spokesperson for Argyll and Bute Council said it was committed to finding a flights solution and would keep reviewing the collaboration between Tiree and Oban High School.

‘The departure of the previous head teacher and difficulty in recruiting a replacement allowed us to explore a collaboration between Tiree High and Oban High, making best use of the expertise available to us. The education of our young people is of the utmost importance and we will continue to review this arrangement going forward in collaboration with parents, he added.

Oban Councillor Roddy McCuish, policy lead for roads and amenity services, is confident the council is trying to sort out the flight plight, saying: ‘I’m confident the council are working hard to look for an interim service and more importantly a full-time operator,’ he said.