Affordable housing project secures future of remote island school

Ulva Primary SchoolAn innovative community solution to address falling numbers at a small island school has resulted in two new homes for affordable rent being built nearby.

New pupils Leo and Chayce Wright, both five, increased the school roll of Ulva Primary School, in the remote North West of Mull, from five to seven when their families moved in to the new homes.

Now their four younger brothers and sisters are waiting in the wings to boost the school roll even further in years to come.

The housing project was set up in 2012 after a successful campaign in 2011 to save the school from closure. It was funded by a number of parties, including the Scottish Land Fund, Argyll and Bute Council, and over £22,500 in local donations.

A points allocation system, which favoured young families, ensured new pupils filled the homes.

Mairi Nicolson, principal teacher at Ulva Primary, said the affordable housing project had been a great success.

She told The Herald: “There weren’t a lot of young families here, there didn’t seem to be any coming and the housing in the area was outside the price range of young couples.”

Chayce’s mother, Sam Wright, 34, and Leo’s mum Stacey Inglis, 33, who is now the school janitor, said the two families had moved from Tobermory to take advantage of the opportunity of a rural lifestyle, with secure accommodation. Their husbands work at a local fish farm.

Mrs Wright, a carer, said: “Having previously had to move frequently from one private let to another, it is very comforting to know we can make this house our long-term home. We had lived in private rents for three and a half years and had three houses in all, we were ready for a move and this is such a lovely school and lovely community.”

Susie Carmichael, acting head teacher at Ulva Primary, said: “We have seven pupils now, including two from the new families and we will have two more new pupils next year and two more after that.”

Mull and Iona Community Trust housing project manager, Helen MacDonald, who progressed the new homes plan, said: “The level of interest from potential tenants was significant, giving us the impetus to plan further affordable housing in the Ulva Ferry area.”

Iain Thomson, chair of Ulva School Community Association, which was also involved in the initiative, added: “It is fantastic to welcome these two families into the new houses, and the community.”

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