Small rural primaries threatened with closure show their mettle

21st May 2010 at 01:00
The apparent trend undermines claims that small rural schools cannot deliver Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), according to the Scottish Rural Schools Network

The latest HMIE report to heap praise on a school previously threatened with closure focuses on Channelkirk Primary, in the Borders.

In 2005, it was in the midst of a bitter closure consultation. Elected officials at Scottish Borders Council had described it as "unviable" and "the worst school building I have seen", and reportedly accused campaigners of skewing children's minds about a proposed merger with a new school five miles away in Lauder.

Channelkirk Primary, in the village of Oxton, was ultimately saved, a decision which seemed to be vindicated with the publication of an outstanding inspection report on April 27: the school and nursery class, which had 86 children during the inspectorate's visit, received two ratings of "excellent" and six of "very good".

A parent at the school, Brian McCrindle, said its success could be partly attributed to support from Scottish Borders Council, a far cry from the "difficult relationship" during the time when closure was a distinct threat.

Paul Docherty, former chairman of the parent council, also pointed to a relationship between the council and the village that had "gone from strength to strength in recent years", even opening up the possibility of a new school and "community hub".

Similarly upbeat news emerged in March when 27-pupil Crathes Primary in Aberdeenshire received five "very good" ratings, having also faced plans for closure in 2005. A week later, Littlemill Primary, in the East Ayrshire village of Rankin, received five "very goods" and three "goods". The school, which has 32 pupils including a nursery class, underwent a closure consultation in 2008.

Sandy Longmuir, chairman of the Scottish Rural Schools Network, highlighted a common link between these reports in their praise for how the schools were adapting to Curriculum for Excellence. Channelkirk pupils received a "broad and stimulating curriculum", while most tasks planned by Littlemill staff were "fun, imaginative and extend children's learning", and most learning "links well to experiences in children's personal lives".

Mr Longmuir said: "This contradicts some of the statements currently being made by several local authorities that CfE cannot be delivered in small schools and needs state-of-the-art buildings for its implementation."

In evidence to the Scottish Parliament's education committee last year, Mr Longmuir said that many rural schools had been earmarked for closure despite receiving some of the best inspections on record.

henry.hepburn@tes.co.uk.

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