Talks start on plans to shut town school

St Margaret's RC Primary School, Hawick.
St Margaret's RC Primary School, Hawick.

Plans to close a Hawick primary school took a step forward this week after councillors agreed to start a formal consultation about shutting it.

Members of Scottish Borders Council’s executive committee approved the launch of a statutory consultation on plans to shut St Margaret’s RC Primary School on Tuesday.

The Buccleuch Terrace school, one of four Catholic primaries in the region, has capacity for up to 100 children, but it has seen a significant fall in pupil numbers over the past 20 years, down from 56 in 1997 to 14 today.

There were no admissions into primary one for the current school year 2017/18 and only three pupils have been joined in to primary one over the last three years.

Donna Manson, the council’s service director for children and young people, said: “We have been doing work with the school to prepare them should the decision to consult be made today.

“We have to engage with the church and keep the Scottish Government involved with the consultation.

“For me, this is not about money – it is about the children’s educational benefits.

“The church has been supportive of the educational benefits we are putting on the table, and we need to work hand in glove to maintain the religious instruction currently offered at the school.”

It is proposed that if it closes, existing pupils, 10 of whom are registered as Catholics, and 13 of whom speak English as a secondary language, will be offered places at other primaries in the town.

The children already travel to Drumlanrig St Cuthbert’s School for certain PE lessons.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Watson McAteer added: “It’s one of those issues where it is very easy to identify the problems but very difficult to identify the solution.

“There is a very clear logic for doing what we are doing.

“In terms of the proposals for today, it makes sense.”

A consultation period will now run from Wednesday, November 22, until January, and the outcome of that will be discussed by the committee in the spring.

Councillors also approved the closure of the mothballed Eccles/Leitholm, Ettrick and Hobkirk primary schools within the next few months.

The region’s three other RC primary schools are Halyrude in Peebles, St Joseph’s in Selkirk and St Margaret’s in Galashiels.