LIONEL SCHOOL, on the northern tip of Lewis, is a small establishment with eight permanent teachers and just over 100 pupils, who enter in P1 and stay until S2 when they leave for the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.
Unusually the primary roll has been rising in recent years, and a new classroom has had to be built. Iain Gillies, the head, is in no doubt that the effects of the primary-secondary transition are mitigated when children do not have to cope with a new school.
Shetland has schools covering P1 to S4, a set-up Mr Gillies believes contributes to exceptionally good Standard grade results. "When we surveyed our parents recently, over three-quarters said they would like our school to be upgraded to take pupils to S4." The Western Isles runs five other 5-14 schools.
One big advantage of having secondary and primary staff and pupils on the same site, Mr Gillies says, is that it makes informal liaison easy. "If there is a problem with a child, for example, you can go and chat to the primary teacher and find out the history."
Mr Gillies said: "One nice thing we are doing at the moment is getting our S1 kids to prepare an information leaflet for the incoming P7 pupils - some of whom arrive from other schools on the island - and later they will probably do an introductory digital video."
Specialist staff teach technology, home economics, art and PE to primary pupils. Computers can be used throughout the school without primary-secondary boundaries. Bridging units have been devised in some subjects - "a kind of shared teaching in which a unit of work is begun by one teacher in P7 and continued by another in S1".
Joint primary-secondary staff development sessions can be run - in ICT training, for example.
Lionel is now putting P7 pupils through cognitive ability tests. "The aim of these is to find out what value we are adding in secondary compared to primary. So why not come back in two years, when we have tested them all again, and I can tell you more," Mr Gillies said.