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'Sparsity' councils cash bid

HIGHLAND has joined Argyll and Bute in urging ministers to recognise the "super sparsity" that sends school costs soaring.

Argyll, which has 19 primaries and four secondaries on 15 islands, has long argued that it should receive the special islands needs allowance. The Pounds 22 million subsidy is currently restricted to Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles which will strongly resist any move for a share of the cake unless it is made larger.

The allowance is currently being reviewed jointly by the Scottish Office and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

Peter Peacock, Highland convener, said 16 of the council's secondary schools are more expensive to run than Rothesay Academy on the island of Bute. The price of keeping open Loch Choire primary in a remote corner of Sutherland to educate just one pupil is Pounds 26,268.

Mr Peacock said: "Our visiting teachers and specialist support teachers often spend as much time travelling as dealing with clients."

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