Lifeline for rural schools with just one teacher

DUMFRIES and Galloway has become the first authority to declare its opposition in principle to single-teacher schools.

The council has been wrestling with a radical restructuring for almost a year to put it in line for a pound;70 million public private partnership (PPP) initiative. Consultants have recommended a draconian programme for a rural area of closing 40 primaries and possibly two secondaries.

Now the council has decided it must become more "proactive" in supporting small schools whose rolls may force them to run with just one teacher.

The education committee on Tuesday agreed to the recommendations of a working group that a review group should be set up for any primary school where the number of pupils falls to 25 or where the total number of pupils in P1 to P4 is 12 pupils or fewer.

This is to stop the practice of allowing rolls "to drift down without intervention". The local community would be given time to see if it could reverse the decline.

A report from Fraser Sanderson, director of education, said single-teacher schools lacked a social mix, were costly, imposed burdens on a class-committed headteacher, suffered from isolation and could not deliver a broad curriculum. The potential difficulties of pupils having the same teacher for seven years were also cited.

The committee accepted, however, that remote schools such as Glentrool and Carsphairn primaries would have to be exempted and given additional support to ease disadvantages for staff and pupils.

The review groups would take into account a series of factors. These include school roll trends, placing request patterns, proposed housing developments, alternative schools, support from the community and pupil attainment.

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