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Closure saga set for final chapter

THE controversial closure of Lews Castle School in Stornoway, dogged by legal challenges, is set to go ahead but not before June 2002. The Western Isles education committee decided this week by nine votes to six that the 120 pupils and 17 staff will be transferred to the Nicolson Institute, whose roll is 920.

The recommendation will come before the full council at the end of the month when a further challenge is expected. Statutory consultation with parents would take place over the winter.

Two years ago the council decided that Stornoway should have a new six-year secondary combining Lews Castle, which has concentrated on vocational education, and he Nicolson, which has a long established academic standing.

The marriage had to be put off after a parental challenge leading to a Court of Session ruling that the consultation process was flawed. Options about levels of amalgamation of, or co-operation between, the two schools were then considered.

Norman Macdonald, the committee's chairman, said that the bottom line was the best education for the children under the authority's care. One councillor said that the saga had had a debilitating effect on the whole community. The transfer of courses and staff to the Nicolson would ensure parents that all courses were available to all pupils.

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