Ulva Primary and Lochdonhead no longer under immediate threat of closure

Argyll & Bute Council’s newly announced school closure consultation list has been released, and the good news for Mull schools is that Ulva and Lochdonhead are no longer on the possible closure list.

It’s been a hard struggle for both schools, with all parents working very hard to get their points across and fight to keep their schools open in the face of some aggressive cost-cutting moves from the council leaders.

However, it’s all over now!

We’d like to thank our hard-working Mull councilors for their support, along with the numerous locals who stood by the schools over the difficult last few months.

As for the future, in Ulva Ferry a new local community group has been formed, with the Ulva School Community Association planning to seek out new ways to boost the local population and ensure healthy numbers for Ulva Primary over the coming years.

Thanks again to anyone who signed a form, read our Facebook pages or came to our many community meetings. It was genuinely amazing and moving to see how much the continued existence of Ulva Primary meant to so many people.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Burns Lunch at Ulva Primary

One of the highlights of the calendar is always the Ulva Primary Burns Lunch, where the school children sings songs, perform music and poems – and even try eating a bit of locally made haggis!

All the parents attended, plus we had special guests this year in the form of several local councillors who were doing their rounds of Argyll & Bute schools. They seemed to have fun but didn’t stick around for the after lunch dancing!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

News update January 7th 2010

On 5th January 2010 at a Special Council Meeting (called by 9 SNP and Independent Councillors, including both Mull Councillors Mary Jean Devon and Gordon Chalmers) Provost Petrie announced there had been a Material Change to the Proposals to close 25 schools – based on the information contained in the SRSN’s Presentation (mentioned below) and as a result of this, a motion was passed to halt the Consultation process. New Proposals will be drawn up, having looked at not just the 25 schools but the entire primary school estate, and presented to the Council at the March 3rd meeting at Kilmory.

Both Councillors Mary Jean Devon and Gordon Chalmers voted against the Alliance of Independent Councillors Motion, voting instead for the simpler and less political Amendment. Both Motion and Amendment asked – in different ways – for the same thing ultimately – the cessation of the current Proposals.

SRSN (Scottish Rural Schools Network) gave a Presentation to the Councillors which highlighted the flaws and inaccuracies in the original Proposals, and it was agreed that they would be involved (though in what way we don’t yet know) in the review taking place between now and March 3rd.

The Education Spokesperson Councillor Ellen Morton has given her word she will consult the communities and listen to their opinions. We look forward to that

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

VIDEO: Making some noise at the council meet

Here’s a little clip of the crowd, as we gathered outside the Lochgilphead council offices to make our objection heard. Well done to all banner makers and shouters!

And look out for the enthusiastic dad who starts cheering extra loud when he sees the camera on him…

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Pics from today’s council meeting at Lochgilphead

Well done to all the parents from all the schools who attended today’s council meeting, who created a lot of noise and definitely left the councilors in no doubt about their feelings. The sad news is that all schools have been put forward for full consultation, but at least everyone made their voices heard today.

Well done everyone who stood outside in the cold all day, there were some very brave toddlers supporting us all too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Response from Ulva Primary parent council

We’ve put together an official response to the latest council proposal regarding the closure of Ulva Primary, addressing our safety concerns it raises, some of the key flaws in the arguments and outlining why losing such an important focal point would be devastating to the future of this small local community.

Please have a read.

Green Flag (Eco Schools) awarded October 2010

In this Document, we, the Parent Council of Ulva Primary School, present a further Response to the Draft Proposals by Argyll and Bute Council to amalgamate Ulva School with Dervaig School, on the Isle of Mull.

We appreciate the pressure the elected Councillors are under at this time but hope very much they will take the time to consider our points. There is further information about the School supporting our Response on our website: https://ulvaprimary.wordpress.com



There are only 2 roads from the Ulva area to Dervaig.

• Ulva – Torloisk – Hill Road – Dervaig 10.2 miles
• Ulva – Torloisk – Burg/Ensay – Calgary – Dervaig 17.9 miles

The Ulva Parent Council are thankful that, in the following statement taken from the amended proposal published on 19th November regarding the Council’s recent journey timing exercise, the Council has acknowledged that the “Hill Road” route is not viable in winter. Their timing exercise was carried out on the Torloisk – Burg/Ensay – Calgary – Dervaig route only:

“NB It should be noted that this is the long route, avoiding the inland road which can become snowbound in winter”


Please see below excerpts from statements by Kaz Bailey, present Roads Engineer for the Isle of Mull, and Iain Erskine, Police Sergeant for Mull from 1997-2008. Iain Erskine lived at Burg from 2007-2010. (Burg is now home to a family with children at Ulva School):

Kaz Bailey, Roads Engineer:

Regarding gritting both roads
“As regards the Hill Road, in severe prolonged conditions that would suggest treatment if time permitted, it is unlikely that I would instruct the men to treat this road due to the severe gradients combined with hairpin bends, and the risk factor. Ditto between Calgary & Torloisk. As I stated to Alan Reid SMP last winter when he asked why I had closed the sections of road at Burg/Ensay & why I wouldn’t treat – I am not prepared to endanger my workforce.

“We did & do treat during prolonged severe weather spells the ends of the hill road. We treat (as time permits, and often by hand ) from Dervaig junction to West Ardue and from Torloisk junction to Keepers cottage, which leaves the middle portion un-treated, hence the road closure.

Road closure dates
“I closed the road (Hill Road & Burg/Ensay) from mid Dec to approx mid Feb, re-opened , then another downfall of snow occurred end Feb/ beginning of March & I closed again.”

Iain Erskine, retired Police Sergeant:

Regarding the Hill Road
“This route is not an easy one to travel on. It frequently ices up in the winter months and is impassable. It was in fact closed for a considerable period at the turn of the year due to ice and snow. It has additional hazards in the way of large red deer and cattle and sheep….. I had to use all of my training skills as a police driver to avoid collisions. This route is also susceptible to fog at its highest point. My wife worked in Tobermory and had a constant fear of using this route.”

Regarding the Burg / Ensay / Calgary route
“The route via Calgary is not much better. This road peaks at 178m….. and consists of numerous hairpin bends. Again at the turn of the year and later this road was blocked……The roads department advised us that it was too dangerous for their workers to get into the area…..This road was also not suitably gritted. I am aware of numerous road accidents in the area at this time.”

Regarding the roads in the Ulva Ferry, Burg and Torloisk areas generally:
“They require particular skill to drive on carefully and also require a much reduced speed to encounter safely……In our time here, there were very frequent times that we would have avoided travel, more so if we had children to consider.

The Parent Council would also like to draw attention to the fact that there are further safety factors to consider in that:

  • There is no mobile reception on more than half of the Burg/ Ensay route and on three-quarters of the hill road route
  • Both routes contain dangerous hairpins in areas of zero mobile phone reception, with no houses nearby at which to raise an alarm
  • 4.5 miles of the Hill Road and 1.75 miles of the highest part of the Burg/Ensay road have no houses en route whatsoever.

The result of the proposal to amalgamate Ulva school with Dervaig School would be that the Ulva children could be placed in severe danger on the proposed route and would very likely miss a significant amount of schooling annually due to being unable to travel to Dervaig – this would have a very serious impact on their education, quite apart from the risk to their (and their driver’s) personal safety. Who will be responsible if the worst happens?

Heights of the road section between ‘Torloisk – Burg – Ensay – Calgary


  • The route was driven each way on Saturday 20th November, starting at 11am., picking up/dropping off 6 eligible children.
  • We had good driving conditions, and only winter weekend traffic levels – in summer it is far busier.
  • The local driver, who knows the roads and the vehicle, drove as quickly as she felt was safe on these roads.
  • Total journey time from pick up of 1st existing eligible pupil to Dervaig School was 53.15 minutes.
  • We averaged 53 seconds per pick up, and our average journey speed (including stops) was 19.94 mph.
  • Return journey was 54.50 minutes.  Again we averaged 53 seconds per drop off, and average journey speed (including stops) was 19.37 mph.
  • Further local drivers have done the same journey in an average of 49 minutes 37 seconds with no pickups and no children on board.
  • NB: Council staff drove the route in 43 minutes allowing an unrealistic 30 seconds pick up time, and averaged 24 mph – 20% faster than the local minibus driver.

See our video of the journey here.

  • Please note in addition, should a child move to live between Kellan (at the eastern end of the catchment area) and Acharonich (address of 1st pickup now) the journey would be extended by over 10 mins which would take the journey time to at least 63 minutes.
  • Any Primary school children living on the Isle of Ulva have a further 10 minutes of journey time involving an open boat, which would make their journey to Dervaig School over an hour.

See our videos of the trip to Ulva Ferry here.

  • Children from the Ulva area would be enable to participate in after school activities in Dervaig School, as the distance and time involved in getting to Dervaig would make it difficult for parents to drop off and collect children.
  • The Ulva and Dervaig areas each have their own separate weather micro-climates, which can change from one side of the hills to the other within minutes.
  • In event of road closure/emergency situations there is no provision for Storm Buddy system with primary school age children.
  • This is particularly important for future children living on Ulva, as the ferryman can call the children attending Ulva Primary back to the ferry within 10 minutes should the weather change – it would be impossible to arrange transport to get the children back in time from Dervaig.


  • There would be no reason for young families to remain the area, or for additional families to move in to the area if there is no school.
  • Area has no village hall, no shop, no church.
  • The school is the ONLY community building.
  • Current use of school by the local community includes:
  • Mother/toddler group
  • Air and Sea Rescue (Co-ordination centre)
  • Mull Rally Communication Hub
  • Lunch Club
  • Community Gatherings
  • Festive events e.g Halloween, Christmas, Burns Supper
  • Polling Station
  • School encourages families to move into the area.

(4 families have moved specifically for their children to attend Ulva Primary, and 2 island families with pre-school and school age children looking to relocate to the Ulva catchment area, because of the school)

  • The Island of Ulva is encouraging young families to move onto the island, to help regenerate their community.  Without a school at Ulva Ferry, this will be impossible.
  • School parties – attended not just by parents, families but whole community.
  • Because of the road conditions, and geography, local residents (particularly the elderly and those with young families) will not consider relocating their community focus to Dervaig Village Hall, as suggested in the Proposal.


The Parent Council and local Community would be delighted to become more involved with the school and to work with Argyll and Bute Council to help secure its future.

We have already looked at ways of bringing additional income into the school and identified areas for cost savings.

Positive ideas for reducing costs:

As it stands, Ulva School building condition is rated B and there are no issues with the building at present.

  • Simply turn the heating down.
  • Install thermal blinds on existing large windows, to reduce heat loss.
  • Volunteers willing to undertake any future maintenance/decorating, upkeep of grounds (eg lawn mowing etc)
  • Installation of Renewable technologies would reduce running costs of the building – see below).

Positive Ideas for Additional Uses (and revenue) include:

Exhibition area in school holidays/weekends

Conference Facilities

Meeting point for Local Sustainability Collective.

Summer Café/Children’s play area:

  • During school holidays, volunteer run Café/Play Area to provide community Café, facilities for local children as well as holidaymakers children. (Similar to community café on Isle of Eriskay in their village hall)

Positive Ideas for Increasing Income and Reducing Carbon Footprint:

Community Renewables Group:

Set up by members of Local Community and Parent Council.

Technologies with potential include:

  • Solar Photo Voltaic Panels
  • Biomass Heating

Cheaper, more energy efficient heating than existing electric panel heaters, possibility to sell energy to Schoolhouse next door.

  • Install wind turbine on neighbouring land (landowner has already been approached and is agreeable in principle)
  • The above 3 technologies could be grant aided, with Interest Free Loans available (Energy Savings Trust/Carbon Trust) and would provide good income through Feed In Tariffs and Renewable Heat Incentive payments (due to start April 2011), as well as lowering the carbon footprint of the school, and cutting heating and electricity costs.

Response written by the Parent Council of Ulva Primary School.
November 21st 2010
Carolyne Charrington
Email: carolyne.somerset@me.com
Phone: 01688 400425

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

VIDEO: Proposed school run

The updated Argyll & Bute proposal recognises that the ‘Hill Road’ route between Ulva Primary and Dervaig is regularly impassible during winter months – and suggests an alternate route via Burg and Ensay.

Not only is this a longer journey, but the condition of this road is equally poor – and it’s equally as remote as the ‘Hill Road’ with many miles of the journey lacking any mobile phone coverage.

Here’s a video we recorded this weekend, showing that it took us 53 minutes to drive this route, under ideal conditions, with good weather and minimal Saturday morning traffic.

Things to note:

  • Our 53 minute journey time included five child pickups, which took 4 minutes 25 seconds in total.
  • Our average pickup time was 53 seconds – which we think is very fast, especially when we had two little P1 children to strap in.
  • The stretch of road between Torloisk and Ensay was closed for several weeks last winter.
  • The proposal completely fails to take into account travel times of future children and families on the islands of Ulva and Gometra.
  • The Ulva Primary catchment area extends for a further 4.2 miles to the east – which would add an additional ten minutes to the journey time, should a child move to Kellan.


Filed under Area, Community

Don’t abandon Ulva and Gometra

Ulva Primary and the Ulva Ferry area take their names from the island of Ulva, which is situated about a mile south of Ulva Primary and separated from the mainland of Mull by around 200 metres of water.

In the past, any children on the isles of Ulva and its neighbour Gometra have attended Ulva Primary, thanks to a local ferry service that runs between Mull and Ulva. Ulva’s a big island some five or six miles in length with no proper roads, so children have a huge trek just to get to Ulva Primary.

Here’s a video showing where Ulva Ferry and the island of Ulva are in relation to Ulva Primary:

As you can see, despite being a narrow stretch of water, the sea can get too rough to cross – often in a short period of time when the weather turns. This means we rely on our local ferryman to let the inhabitants of Ulva know when the weather’s turning bad and to head for home ASAP.

If the children were in Dervaig, it simply wouldn’t be possible to react in time to changes in the sea.

Closing Ulva Primary would condemn the historic islands of Ulva and Gometra to a future without young families as no one would relish the lengthy trip to a primary school much further afield.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Elevation of the Hill Road

The geography of this part of Mull means many places have their own unique micro-climates. The stretch of hills that dissect the north-west of the island are steep, bleak and act as a barrier, both physical and psychological, between Ulva and Dervaig.

Here’s the elevation of the Hill Road section – the Dervaig side of the road faces north and gets very little sun, so often freezes. And as the route is not gritted, it’s only thanks to the kind work of locals and their shovels that this road is passable at all during lengthy cold periods.

This means we often see completely different weather conditions in Dervaig compared to Ulva. We know there will be several days over winter when the weather changes and these roads quickly become impassible. It’s therefore inevitable that the children will find themselves stranded in Dervaig.

It’s simply not acceptable that our primary-age children will find themselves stuck away from home over winter as a result of this proposal.

Leave a comment

Filed under Area, Community, News

GALLERY: Snow on the Burg/Ensay road

A few pretty photos for you. It’s a beautiful journey, but not one you’d want to do with a mini bus full of primary school children!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized