Parliament supports lone teachers;Small schools

15th October 1999 at 01:00
Local government decides the future of small schools, but the new Parliament intends to play a larger role. At the education committee meeting in June, MSPs Michael Russell (SNP), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP education spokesperson) and Ian Welsh (Labour) all stressed the importance of rural schools.

"It would be heartening for parents to know there was a committee that did not always take the view that cost-saving and cost-cutting were the best course," said Russell.

According to Scottish Executive statistics a mere 18 of Scotland's 2,300 primaries are single-teacher schools. But local figures are much higher. National figures are compiled on the basis of full-time equivalent teachers, so headteacher cover for one day a week, or learning support for a morning, lifts them out of that category.

Central government interest could make the task of local councils more difficult, though some welcome the intervention of a higher authority.

Highland council has the most one teacher schools - 18 officially, though the council's figure is 34. It went through a painful round of looking at school closures a couple of years ago and "on the basis of that experience decided that for the foreseeable future we are not in the business of closing small schools," says Jack Findlay, head of schools development.

Dumfries and Galloway says it has nine one teacher schools, and contemplated closing several a few years back. But as in Highland there were no closures and a marked reluctance to repeat the exercise any time soon."Each school is considered on its merits," says Fraser Sanderson, director of education. "But in general schools will not be closed on economic grounds alone - there would have to be educational grounds."

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