A SCHOOL parent council in Eskdale is up in arms after children and staff have had to use heaters because the heating system is failing.
The boiler is about 30 years old but is still in a working condition and just needs a replacement part to get it up and running again.
The heating system broke down last Thursday, closing the school, and Carol Wilson, depute headteacher, had to go in at 7am on Monday to switch on heaters to warm up the classrooms in time for the pupils arriving.
The parent council is also in dispute with Dumfries and Galloway Council over the fact it has no wi-fi and the fire alarm keeps sounding randomly.
If it goes off at the weekend or at night, Mrs Wilson is called out to switch it off. Last weekend it wouldn’t switch off and disturbed the neighbours.
It had not been sounding in the nursery class, which was a worry, but it is now working in there, although they don’t know how long that will last.
Janice Sheppard, parent council treasurer, said they had raised £1,000 to buy six ipads for the school but they couldn’t be used because they didn’t have wi-fi.
They launched an online petition which has, so far, raised more than 120 signatures. A paper petition has more than 20.
Mrs Sheppard said: “We raised money for the ipads but the council’s IT department said we could not have wi-fi. In this day and age everyone should be able to have wi-fi.
“At our recent parent council meeting Mrs Wilson told us the council said Canonbie was not a throughput school so we weren’t a priority.
“We’re part of the Langholm cluster and both Langholm schools have wi-fi. We thought this was crazy.
“How can we be in a cluster and some children can use the equipment and other children can’t?
“We decided to take this on ourselves and raise a petition. The children have written lots of letters to say why they want wi-fi. It is there to support learning and electronic devices are the way forward.”
Mrs Sheppard said the school had to close last Thursday because of the heating failure.
“This has been ongoing for a few years. Sometimes the heating is jammed on and other times it doesn’t work at all.
“We asked a heating engineer ourselves and he said it was not a huge problem to fix and we didn’t need to replace the whole thing. It would be just under £1,000 to fix it.”
Mrs Sheppard said they decided to contact their MSP Oliver Mundell.
On Tuesday the council sent an engineer who fixed it and got it working but he said it was not working properly and was burning too much oil.
She said: “Mrs Wilson is doing everything she can. She is managing the school so well and we’re raising money so we’re probably helping the council from the budget side of things.
“Four years ago we wanted the inside to be painted but the council said it didn’t have the money to do it and it was up to us to do it.
“However, Denis Male (former ward councillor) found some money and the council paid for it in the end.
“The parents are split on this. Some ask why should we pay for jobs, while others say that if it needs doing, we should do it. But, in principle, why should we pay to repair a council building?”
Mr Mundell has contacted the education authority and the situation is being investigated.
He said: “The council urgently needs to replace the heating system and I’ve asked for that.
“But it says that taking out the boiler in the middle of winter is not ideal and could be quite disruptive.
“It’s looking at nursing the heating system through this winter and considering other options in the spring.”
He said wi-fi had been raised with him in a number of schools and it was unacceptable they had no wi-fi connectivity, given IT had such a strong role in the curriculum.
“I can ask some questions of the Scottish government to see whether it’s aware there are schools in this region without wi-fi.
“It’s a major disadvantage, given the expectations of employers and the amount of work which needs to be done on computers.
“Another point worth making is the number of children who don’t have access to the internet at home so it’s doubly important for them to have it in school.”