The school with one pupil closes its doors

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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CENTURIES of education have come to an end at Ettrick school.

The area’s smallest primary closed its doors for what could be the last time earlier this week.

No children are enrolled for next year, so the school will not reopen for the 2012-13 session and its future hangs in the balance.

Scottish Borders Council 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.”

The school roll has fallen from 12 to three in the last five years and two of this year’s three pupils leave to go to Selkirk High School next term, with the remaining child going to Kirkhope.

Staff on Tuesday were packing up materials before a presentation and cake with head teacher Mo Brown.

Ettrick and Yarrow Community Council only received a letter saying the school was not re-opening 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. People are really quite accepting of it. The council has been very supportive. It hasn’t pushed for closure and it 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. It’s a really special place for children to be. 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 been coming through the school.

“My sons were here and my grandson would have been coming here. The very sad thing is if there is no school here the young people will move on and 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 prizes in Burns singing and art competitions, eco-schools, an M&S eco challenge and, most recently, Hamish Reid’s painting won his class’ (P3) category in the Common Riding painting competition

One resident, who did not want to be named, argued more could have been done to save it.

“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.

“Ettrick Primary School is a priority rural school and any request for closure has to go to the Scottish Parliament. There has been no consultation on this issue.”

Education has taken place at Ettrick since 1725, Tibbie Shiels (of the St Mary’s Loch hostelry fame) was born a few hundred yards away and the Ettrick Shepherd, poet James Hogg, learned to read and write as a child at the school.

Staff have been offered other jobs.