25 years ago

4th April 1997 at 01:00

An editorial commented on the failure of an attempt to extend independent education into the Highlands.

No simple reason can be learned from the closure this summer of Dunrobin school near Golspie - no more than from the merging of the two Edinburgh grant-aideds, Daniel Stewart's and Melville, or from the fact that the independent Merchiston, in Edinburgh, is launching a campaign for a major development programme.

But there has been something intriguing and possible unique about Dunrobin, which came into existence seven years ago because its new owner, the Countess of Sutherland could not think of anything else to do with the huge and somewhat unmanageable building.

The success of Gordonstoun seemed to point a way, but Dunrobin has had distance problems and also it does not have either sea or land at hand that offers outdoor facilities comparable with those at Gordonstoun. Dunrobin has not managed to draw quite the class of clientele that brings more class, and this has forced it to be still more different from Gordonstoun without establishing a distinguishing ethos or appeal of its own.

But it is a pity Dunrobin must go, if only because its existence kept pointing up one of the paradoxes of our educational economics. While there has been pressure for a centre of higher education in the north, partly to boost the local economy, Dunrobin could gain no kudos from its owner's firm determination to make it contribute to the economic growth of the district: certainly she could get no grant from the Labour Government. Whether the Tories would have given one is doubtful. After all, presumably education has its lame ducks, too.

* Scottish pupils would be better served by an admissions system geared to their own needs than by the present combination of direct application and the UCC form.

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