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Parents must raise pound;1m to save school

Happy - for now. Officials from Scottish Borders were due to meet the school board of Newlands primary as we went to press to discuss the unique proposal that it will be kept open if parents can raise the necessary pound;1 million - around pound;10,000 per pupil.

The council's education executive agreed last week to remove the school from the closure list meantime to see what this parent fund-raising with a difference, thought to be unique in Scotland, could achieve.

Scottish Borders wanted to close the 86-pupil Newlands school in Peeblesshire because it lacked suitable space and had a "very poor standard of accommodation", according to a review of the council's school estate. It has no PE or nursery facilities.

Glenn Rodger, director of education and lifelong learning, acknowledged in a report to councillors last week that parents had firmly opposed the original plan to merge Newlands with a new school to replace West Linton primary, four and a half miles away.

This was to have been done through a public private partnership programme.

The council then changed its mind and decided that its pound;50 million PPP funding from the Scottish Executive would be confined to three secondary schools.

The board at Newlands has already commissioned a design for a new building and has investigated the possibility of raising funds outwith the council's capital programme. "We are confident we can pull this off," Karen Blissitt, vice-chairman of the board, said.

She added: "The Scottish Executive has been saying how it wants parents to have more say in the running of schools, so hopefully we will receive a lot of support."

But the council has made clear that the board will have to operate within "tight parameters". Among these is the stipulation of a realistic cost. At present, there is "a significant difference" of more than pound;400,000 between the board's estimate and that of the council.

Parents have also been warned that, if they are unable to raise enough money, the council may return to its original proposal and hold consultations on building a joint school at West Linton.

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