What’s behind the rise in English pupils in Scotland?

11th May 2018 at 00:00
‘Narrow’ curriculum and ‘inadequate’ schooling cited amid gradual migration north

Many people living close to the border between England and Scotland cross it on a daily basis for work or to shop. Increasingly, though, families who live in England are coming into the Scottish Borders for another reason: education.

Figures obtained by Tes Scotland show that 111 pupils with an English postcode are currently being educated in Scottish Borders Council schools and that the number has grown steadily over the past five years, from 69 in 2012-13.

Locals speculate that the gradual rise could be down to the ailing fortunes of Berwick Academy, which they say are prompting families to vote with their feet. In March, a report by English inspectorate Ofsted judged the school to be “inadequate”, and it is now subject to special measures, which means it will face regular inspections until standards improve.

Prior to the March report, the school was subject to a series of negative inspection ratings dating back to 2013 and, according to Ofsted figures, its roll has dropped from 801 in 2012 to 673 this year.

Locals also believe that the movement of pupils is down to the growing realisation that if you live in the Borders, it is possible to opt for either an English or Scottish education.

Some Scottish families are also choosing to send their children to English schools, albeit at a lower rate: figures show that the educational offerings north of the border are attracting more pupils than the number being sent in the opposite direction.

This year, 62 pupils with a Scottish postcode are being educated in Northumberland County Council schools. The other English county council area bordering Scotland is Cumbria, but a spokesman says cases of Scots opting to study there are “few and far between”. He cites geography as being the main reason, with fewer towns located close to the border.

In Dumfries and Galloway Council, the number of English-based pupils is small. A council spokesman tells Tes Scotland that 15 pupils with an English home address are studying at its primaries and secondaries.

Offering a choice

Helen Laing, an SNP councillor who lives in Ayton near Eyemouth, less than 10 minutes from the border, believes the increasingly divergent English and Scottish education systems are appealing to different audiences. Parents are opting for the system that suits them best, she suggests. “Different styles suit different young people, and families can weigh up the options and make a decision about what best suits them,” explains Laing.

“Eyemouth is only 15 minutes or so from the border and there are good public transport links so it offers parents and students in the English Borders a choice between the English style, with a narrower range of subjects in more depth, or Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence, with its wider focus.”

The Scottish Borders Council school that is attracting the bulk of the English-based pupils is Eyemouth High, which has a roll of about 450 pupils – more than one in 10 of whom (68) have an English postcode.

The boost in Eyemouth High’s pupil numbers from English-based attendees brings huge local benefits, says Laing: “This is good news for Eyemouth, as the school can grow, which means more teachers, which in turn means an expanded curriculum can be offered.”

Scottish Borders Council says it does not have a policy on accepting pupils from England, but that it has a duty to consider all placing requests received. A spokeswoman adds: “Placement-request decisions are based on available space within the school. If there isn’t capacity, then no placement request is accepted, whether that is a child living in Scotland or England.”


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