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Space available at Dornoch Primary School for refugees, says Highland Council

By Caroline McMorran

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A CLAIM that Dornoch Primary School does not have the capacity to educate Ukrainian refugees has been refuted by Highland Council who say that is not the case.

At a meeting of Dornoch Community Council last Wednesday, member David MacBeath maintained the 165-pupil school was already “stretched to the limit” to cope with the students it had.

Highland Council says Dornoch Primary School has room for more pupils.
Highland Council says Dornoch Primary School has room for more pupils.

He was speaking during a discussion on whether the community council should follow Golspie Community Council’s lead and spearhead efforts by local residents to take in Ukrainians fleeing from their country as a result of the Russian invasion.

“I certainly agree with people wanting to take in refugees and if I had a sizeable home, I would consider it,” said Mr MacBeath.

“But we have also got to consider the infrastructure; Golspie High School and primary school can probably handle it, but Dornoch Primary School is stretched to the limits.

“I think there is already Ukrainian children there but more would push the boundaries and the school has more than enough pupils already.”

Fellow community councillor Graeme Ross said he did not think the UK Government’s Homes for Refugees scheme had been well though out, and queried what would happen when the government stopped paying the £350 a month currently provided to hosts.

“Do they put them out on the street?,” he asked, adding that he thought local people should decided for themselves without community council input.

Chairman Patrick Murray, who himself has provided a home to two refugees said: “I personally don’t think it is in our remit to encourage people to take in refugees.”

But community councillor Genevieve Duhigg felt the group could do something “simple” such as putting links on its Facebook page to direct those interested in hosting refugees to organisations offering support.

“We could say ‘We are here to help if you choose to take in Ukrainian refugees”, she said.

“If you are worried about the school, maybe we should just ask the head teacher.

“The Scottish Government is required to provide extra teachers to school who have over a certain number of refugees. I don’t think we need to be too active but the community should know we are here to help.”

It was agreed to follow Ms Duhigg’s suggestion.

Following the meeting the Northern Times asked Highland Council to clarify the situation regarding Dornoch Primary School. A spokesman responded that there were “no capacity issues at Doroch Primary at present”.

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