School music problems hit the wrong note at Bettyhill
Problems with school buildings are hitting the wrong note among parents of pupils at Farr High in Bettyhill because of the disruption caused to music lessons.
The school’s music department, in common with the art, English, Gaelic and library accommodation, is located in one of a collection of huts outwith the main building which itself dates from the early 1960s.
The music hut and adjacent drop-in occupy what is by far the most modern of these temporary buildings and was erected around 2006 to replace a second-hand demountable unit which had been in place from 1978.
When it was first constructed, the music room – which also contains two small practice rooms and a storage cupboard – was deemed to be state-of-the-art, being the best insulated in the school and the cheapest to heat.
However, possibly due to the blocking of a vent or vents when a ramp for disabled access was added, the building has been deteriorating over the years and has now been declared entirely unfit for use on health and safety grounds.
Music lessons have now been transferred to the Gaelic room, currently available as Highland Council has been unable to replace the school’s Gaelic teacher, but which has no storage space and is much too small.
The problem came to light in September when mould was seen to be growing on the walls, the floor had become increasingly “bouncy” and equipment, including instruments, amplifiers and books, was being damaged and destroyed by damp.
Mhairi Magee, whose daughter Anna studied music in the department and is now at the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton, is one of those most concerned.
This is a worrying situation for the future of our Highland culture and education on the north coast.
She said: “I’m shocked at the situation that staff and pupils at Farr High School have been in since September and saddened that Highland Council does not value the importance of music education for our young people on the north coast.
“We have already lost our Gaelic department and now our music department is in jeopardy. This is a worrying situation for the future of our Highland culture and education on the north coast.”
A member of the parent council who did not wish to be named said: “This is having a knock-on effect across the whole school as all rooms are in use and a subject like music just can’t become peripatetic due to the range of equipment required. And then there’s a significant noise factor.
“Teacher and pupil stress is being increased as the present situation threatens the range and quality of the lessons which the pupils are accustomed to. There is also a very real possibility that this will be reflected in exam results in what is a popular and very successful subject.’
The topic was raised in last month’s meeting of the local community council and will be followed up at the February meeting next Tuesday.
A Highland Council spokesperson said: “Music is normally taught at Farr High School in a demountable classroom.
“Unfortunately the condition of the unit has deteriorated and is currently not suitable for use.
“Where possible, music is being taught in the main school building. The council is considering if and how the music unit could be brought back into safe use.
“At present there are no financial resources currently allocated for works at Farr High School to replace the music unit.”