Borders rural schools focus of attention for Commission

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SMALL rural schools in Berwickshire have not had it easy over the past two decades and many have been closed - the most recent Berwickshire casualties being Burnmouth, Hutton and Cranshaws - and their future is being looked at by the Commission on the Delivery of Rural Education who will be visiting the Borders next week to hear the views of local people on the issue of rural education.

During this tour the Commission, chaired by Sheriff David Sutherland will be visiting schools to speak to pupils and teachers and holding a public meeting in the Council Chamber, at Scottish Borders Council headquarters in Newtown St Boswells on Tuesday, January 31, at 7pm.

The Commission is made up of parents, headteachers and education experts, including SBC’s director of education Glenn Rodger, and they are currently examining the cost of rural education, how it can offer the best opportunities to young people in rural areas and the link between rural education and rural communities.

In 2004 SBC closed four small schools in the Borders, including Cranshaws, and the local community reluctantly accepted that improving facilities at Duns Primary School would be more beneficial for a greater number of children rather than keeping Cranshaws Primary School open for three children.

Since then the council has drawn up a Small School Review system to monitor all schools with less than 75 pupils.

However, this in itself caused uncertainty for schools such as Coldingham and Eccles/Leitholm that fell into the danger zone and following reviews they were both told to carry on for the foreseeable future.

But if small rural schools thought that the danger had passed, the downturn in the economy brought them back into focus and in 2010 SBC’s executive spokesman for education, Councillor George Turnbull warned that as a cost saving measure schools could be merged.

The Commission’s final report and recommendations will be made to Scottish Ministers and COSLA in August this year and once accepted the Government and COSLA will work in partnership to help secure their successful implementation.