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Parents vote with their feet

Parents also appear to be voting with their feet at the four-year Tomintoul Secondary in Moray, forcing the school board into a volte-face.

Widespread public protests persuaded the SNP-led administration to retain the school last September against the advice of officials concerned that there will be only 25 pupils next session. Costs at the school are Pounds 11,009 per pupil compared with an average of Pounds 3,663.

The school board is now prepared to contemplate a merger with Speyside High in Aberlour, a 50-mile round trip which is already undertaken by fifth and sixth-year pupils.

The Rev Sven Bjarnason, chairman of the school board, said the secondary department would remain under the board's plan but become an annexe of Speyside High. Third and fourth-year pupils would have to take some subjects in Aberlour.

The timing has been influenced by a fall in the number of third and fourth-year pupils and the application for early retirement by Brendan McGrath, the headteacher.

The pupil-teacher ratio at Tomintoul is a generous 1:3 while Speyside High, at 1:11, is one of the best staffed schools in Scotland. The council will save more than Pounds 170,000 in a full year if the amalgamation goes through.

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