Council says Mallaig school ferry rota still under review

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The Highland Council has said the frequency of the boat service for the pupils who reside on the Small Isles and attend Mallaig High School is currently under review and it hopes to have a final decision in the near future.

‘The fortnightly rotation has been the permanent arrangement for a number of years and was temporarily changed to a weekly rotation whil in-school learning for pupils was restricted due to Covid-19.

It was in October that the council opted to switch from fortnightly to weekly sailings for the youngsters from Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna following pressure from the parent council and MSP Kate Forbes.

A local authority spokesperson told the Lochaber Times last week: ‘As the pupils have returned to full-time in-school learning the fortnightly rotation will resume.

‘There are logistical and mitigating factors to consider surrounding the availability of a permanent weekly rotation, including poor winter weather, staffing and charter availability, however the welfare of pupils and equity of education will remain a priority as we work in consultation with pupils, parents/carers and staff.’

The council was responding after being urged by local politicians to maintain the weekly special ferry sailings.

Both MSP Kate Forbes and Fort William and Ardnamurchan SNP councillor Niall McLean both want to see the weekly crossings retained.

Councillor McLean told us: ‘Only being permitted to go home once a fortnight will impact the children who have to board and their families. We don’t want these families under further stress. A weekly trip home is essential for family life.’

Asked if recent outbreaks of Covid-19 in a third of schools across Highland region would impact the operation of the hostel at Mallaig High School, a council spokesperson told us: ‘Mallaig High School residence is currently operating in line with sector specific guidance (Education).

‘Scotland Covid-19 recovery is currently beyond level 0, which enables residents to enjoy the freedoms that national guidance allows.’