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
SAFETY OF OUR CHILDREN ON THESE ROADS
THERE IS NO SAFE ALL YEAR ROUND ROUTE FROM THE ULVA AREA TO DERVAIG
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”
HOWEVER, THIS ALTERNATIVE “LONG” ROUTE ALSO EXPERIENCES SIMILAR, SEVERE WEATHER CONDITIONS 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
TIMING OF THE JOURNEY:
- 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.
EFFECT ON THE COMMUNITY
- 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.
COMMUNITY INPUT AND POSITIVE IDEAS
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
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
Phone: 01688 400425