THE LAST rural secondary school in the Western Isles is to be closed.
Despite many hundreds of objections, the move will abolish the island’s S2 system where pupils are taught in their own home district for the first two years of secondary school.
Parents voiced concerns about the extra two hours daily bus travel to the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway and letting unsupervised children roam the town centre at lunchtimes.
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A tense debate ended in a tied vote, with councillors split 15-15 over axing the school.
It was left to the casting vote of convener Norman Macdonald to seal the fate of the school.
Parents claimed closure would hit at the heart of the community and destroy a secondary school which works well and delivers excellent education.
But education chiefs say only eight pupils attend Lionel secondary roll at present - and insisted small class sizes are not effective for the modern education system.
Council Leader Angus Campbell said: “I am convinced S1, S2 has had its day and is not the best way to deliver Curriculum for Excellence.”
He stated councillors needed to show a degree of leadership.
He said: “Our duty as councillors is not to look at the noise around things but to listen to the facts.”
Councillor Kenny Macleod claimed there were 12 pupils poised to enroll at the school and numbers would rise in the future.
He blamed a recent decline in the school roll on the council creating uncertainty amongst parents by removing the head teacher’s post and slashing the size of the school’s traditional catchment area.
Education director Peter Carpenter said the “key issue was quality of teaching” rather than the idea that small class sizes were best.
Lionel secondary is the last rural S2 school left in the Western Isles after rounds of school closures in recent years.
The council previously voted to shut the school but reversed that decision in 2012.