Residents fear for community and school as Ettrick primary closes

Ettrick Primary School threatened closure at the end of 2012 summer term. Parent council chairman John Davidson (right) with front row from left janitor Alan Carrie, pupils Andrew Davidson, Hamish Reid and Angus Reid, middle row part time teacher Meriel Anderson, teacher Anita Branston, classroom assistant Carole Howden, administrator Daphne Jackson and cook Fiona Bryson and at the rear, Scottish Borders Council's education facilities offficer Douglas Newlands.
Ettrick Primary School threatened closure at the end of 2012 summer term. Parent council chairman John Davidson (right) with front row from left janitor Alan Carrie, pupils Andrew Davidson, Hamish Reid and Angus Reid, middle row part time teacher Meriel Anderson, teacher Anita Branston, classroom assistant Carole Howden, administrator Daphne Jackson and cook Fiona Bryson and at the rear, Scottish Borders Council's education facilities offficer Douglas Newlands.
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THE Ettrick Shepherd James Hogg learned to read and write there, with education at Ettrick School dating back to 1725.

But on Tuesday those who are likely to be the last children schooled there said goodbye.

GALASHIELS, UNITED KINGDOM: Sept 24'PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION FOR BORDERS TEACHER (PRESS RELEASE COPY)'A teacher from the Borders was this week among a group of 18 teachers awarded professional recognition status by the General Teaching Council for Scotland for their efforts in the field of sustainable development'education.'Maureen Brown from Kirkhope Primary School attended an event at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday evening, hosted by Sarah Boyack MSP. The'GTC Scotland celebrated the contribution made by these teachers to developing significant projects which focus on sustainable development education. This work aims to encourage pupils, teachers and parents to'contribute towards achieving a better understanding of how our community can plan for a better and more sustainable future. ''(photo: Rob Gray)

GALASHIELS, UNITED KINGDOM: Sept 24'PROFESSIONAL RECOGNITION FOR BORDERS TEACHER (PRESS RELEASE COPY)'A teacher from the Borders was this week among a group of 18 teachers awarded professional recognition status by the General Teaching Council for Scotland for their efforts in the field of sustainable development'education.'Maureen Brown from Kirkhope Primary School attended an event at the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday evening, hosted by Sarah Boyack MSP. The'GTC Scotland celebrated the contribution made by these teachers to developing significant projects which focus on sustainable development education. This work aims to encourage pupils, teachers and parents to'contribute towards achieving a better understanding of how our community can plan for a better and more sustainable future. ''(photo: Rob Gray)

No pupils are enrolled for August and the primary will not reopen for 2012-2013.

Scottish Borders Council (SBC) education director Glenn Rodger said: “At this stage no decisions have been made regarding the long-term future of the school. Any proposals put forward by the council would be subject to a full public consultation.”

But locals fear the worst and say that unless families with young children move into the area they cannot foresee the facility reopening.

One parent, who did not want to be named, fears closing the school will adversely affect the community.

The incentive is to save money, the parent said, and feared that once the school’s resources – staff and equipment – were redistributed that would mean the end anyway.

In the last five years the school role has dwindled from 12 to what would have been one child for next year, but that child is moving to Kirkhope primary.

The parent argued that more could have been done: “No attempt has been made to breathe life into the school in relation to the three-school partnership (of Ettrick, Yarrow and Kirkhope primary in Ettrickbridge). There is already transport arranged that goes up the valley, pupils could have gone to Ettrick one or two days a week.

“Any closure has to be done with the engagement of the community – I would be very surprised if the community even knows about this closure, it’s been done in an insidious way.”

Legally there has to be consultation before a rural school is shut for good and the Scottish Parliament has to sign any closure off, the parent added.

Ettrick and Yarrow Community Council only received a letter saying the school was not reopening next year in the last few days. Parents were informed earlier this month.

Chairman of the school’s parent council John Davidson said: “It’s sad but it’s inevitable unless somebody decides to build a village or three or four families move into the area. There is the cost element, but it’s more about the wellbeing of the children, they need peers and I don’t think it would be fair to send one child to a school.

“The council has been very supportive. They haven’t pushed for closure and they put in as much resources as we have needed. It’s a very good school. But you can’t have a school if there are no pupils.”

Teacher for the last five years, Anita Branston said: “It has been a vibrant little school. We are trying as a team to foresee not the closing of the school but its reopening.”

Administrator for more than 20 years, Daphne Jackson said: “It’s shocking. Generations of neighbours have come through the school. My sons were here and my grandson would have been. The very sad thing is if there is no school here the young people won’t come back. It’s terribly sad, but it’s for the future of the community that I’m especially sad.”

The school gained an excellent rating in a recent HMI inspection as well as gaining prizes in Burns singing and art competitions, eco-schools awards, success in the M&S eco challenge and most recently Hamish Reid’s painting won his class’s (P3) category in the Common Riding painting competition.

The council is offering other employment to Mrs Jackson, Mrs Branston, janitor Alan Carrie, part-time teacher Meriel Anderson, classroom assistant Carole Howden and cook Fiona Bryson. Hamish will go to Kirkhope, while P7 pupils Angus Reid and Andrew Davidson move on to Selkirk High School.

SBC education portfolio holder, Councillor Sandy Aitchison said: “It is always sad to see a school in the position of Ettrick School. SBC will be carrying out a study to see what options are available for the school in the future and we hope we can come up with something of benefit to the community over the coming years.”