A RADICAL alternative to closing schools has been given the final go ahead by Scottish Borders which plans to "twin" small primaries under a single head to improve management and teaching.
The council's education committee heard last week that parents had mixed views but decided to confirm the link between Broughton and Newlands primaries, which are 10 miles apart The committee voted to "actively seek similar situations". Councillors agreed, however, to test the waters by making each arrangement temporary in the first instance.
Only South Ayrshire has embarked on a similar venture, piloting two projects: Good Shepherd and St John's primaries in Ayr, and Gardenrose primary in Maybole linked to Fisherton and Minishant primaries.
Roy Weller, who chairs the Broughton primary school board, said the arrangement could have positive benefits particularly if the two schools could work more closely together. The relationship between parents and the head was crucial to the success of the policy, Mr Weller said. The headship of the combined school is to be advertised.
In her evaluation of the pilot project, Yvonne McCracken, an adviser with Scottish Borders, said the most significant finding was the improvement in teaching and learning resulting from the fact that the head could manage without being constantly interrupted during class teaching.
But she acknowledged that the arrangement depended on greater communication between home and school, and on clarity about the respective roles of the head and assistant heads.
Graeme Donald, assistant director of education, stated that while there was enormous potential for shared headships the size of the schools (Broughton has 92 pupils and Newlands 65), the distance between them and the views of parents would all have to be taken into account.