Anger over Hawick school turning away children living on its doorstep

Councillor Davie Paterson at Drumlanrig St Cuthbert's Primary School in Hawick.
Councillor Davie Paterson at Drumlanrig St Cuthbert's Primary School in Hawick.

Parents in Hawick are voicing frustration at not being able to enrol their children at a school on their doorstep.

That’s a particular problem at Drumlanrig St Cuthbert’s Primary School in the Loan.

Due to high demand for places, some youngsters living in the Loan have been offered places at Wilton and Stirches primary schools instead.

A spokesperson for Scottish Borders Council admits that situation is “far from ideal”.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson says parents living in the Loan are further angered because some children living in Burnfoot have been allowed to study at Drumlanrig St Cuthbert’s.

He said: “I have had quite a number of parents and grandparents voicing their concerns that their children or grandchildren may not get the allocated places in the nursery or primary school of their choice, even though they actually live in the catchment area of that particular school.

“Some parents were voicing their concerns when siblings are actually attending Drumlanrig St Cuthbert’s school yet their young brothers or sisters have now been offered places at either Wilton or Stirches primary schools.

“One parent was telling me that they are hearing that there were 40 places available at Drumlanrig school but there were 70 applications to go there.

“What was annoying a lot of parents and grandparents was that some parents from Burnfoot were being allowed to send their children to Drumlanrig St Cuthbert’s school, yet pupils that live in the Loan in Hawick, right next to the school, are being encouraged to attend Wilton or Stirches. It’s absolutely bizarre.”

Stuart Easingwood, the council’s interim service director for children and young people, says the problem is partly down to the Scottish Government increasing the number of free hours children get at nursery from 600 to 1,140 a year.

He explained that catchment areas only apply to schools from primary one onwards and not for nursery provision as parents have the choice to send their children to any school or partner provision.

He added: “The rollout of 1,140 hours across all of the schools within the town of Hawick has meant that some of the school settings have fewer spaces available, and this is the case in Drumlanrig due to limits of the physical accommodation.

“The headteacher of Drumlanrig has written to all parents and carers of affected children to explain the situation.

“It is appreciated that this situation is far from ideal, and it is unfortunate that Drumlanrig school does not have the physical capacity to progress onto the 1,140 expanded hours as well as provide a placement for every request.

“There is a criteria for allocating spaces which has been followed by the school to fill the spaces and parents and carers of children who have not been able to secure a space at their first choice of setting, have been invited to visit their second and subsequent choices where spaces are available.

“All children will be able to access their full 1,140 hours within the provision in Hawick.”

Mr Easingwood said the situation for children about to start in P1 is different and all children living in its catchment area will be able to attend Drumlanrig St Cuthbert’s, adding: “The only exception to this would be if a child moved into the catchment area halfway through a term, in which case they would only be guaranteed a place if there was capacity.”