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Race against time to sort out staffing at opt-out primary

Fort William primary awaited the outcome of the election with more anticipation than most, as three teachers have threatened to resign if it opts out of council control.

Parents voted by 94 per cent on a 66 per cent turnout to leave Highland and the school board's plans to set up Scotland's third self-governing school from August 1 were approved by the Secretary of State in December.

Labour has opposed opting out but has stopped short of any commitment to abolish the legislation. The party's education blueprint, Building Scotland's Future, says there is "no logic in a system where there is a separate management category for one or two schools". The future of the three schools would lie within a "new and developing local authority framework".

But Allan Gilchrist, director of education in Highland, which also has one of the existing opted-out schools, says he is still in the dark about what this would mean in practice. The 140-pupil Fort William primary would have to recruit virtually an entire teaching force if the opt-out plans are not reversed. The head is the only full-time member of staff likely to stay at her post along with two job-share teachers. One teacher retired at Easter and another three have said they will resign rather than work in an opted-out school. Mr Gilchrist said Highland would find posts for them as vacancies cropped up.

Andrew Stewart, Highland secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland, says the union is not opposed to its members working in opted-out schools, as at the self-governing Dornoch Academy.

But its advice is that teachers' career and educational prospects, as well as working conditions, are better served in a local authority school.

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