Hawick primary school earmarked for closure after pupil roll falls to 14

A consultation is to be held over the planned closure of a Hawick school as part of a Borders-wide review by education chiefs.

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

When members of Scottish Borders Council’s executive committee meet next week, they will be asked to approve the launch of a statutory consultation on plans to shut St Margaret’s RC Primary School.

A review of denominational schools has highlighted that the Buccleuch Road primary has seen a significant fall in pupil numbers over the past 20 years, down from 56 in 1997 to 14 now – said to be just 14% of its capacity.

It is proposed that if it closes, existing pupils will be offered places at other primaries in the town.

The authority’s service director for children and young people, Donna Manson, said: “We are making this recommendation based on the evidence gathered as part of our reviews which raised a number of issues that we would like to address so that the full range of educational and social benefits that we aspire to for all our children and young people can be available for these pupils.

“While we have already held initial discussions with parents, staff and the Roman Catholic Church to brief them on the proposal, setting out our reasons for making this recommendation, the implications that it will have for everyone involved and the support that will be available, we are asking executive members for agreement to engage with them on a formal basis.”

The consultation will propose that if St Margaret’s is to close, existing pupils will be offered a place at their local catchment primary school. Discussions will also be held with parents and the Roman Catholic Church regarding arrangements for denominational instruction to continue to be provided.

East Berwickshire councillor Carol Hamilton, the authority’s executive member for children and young people, added: “While the decision to consult on the closure of a school is always a difficult one, there has been a significant amount of work undertaken to reach this point, with strong evidence available to support the proposal.

“Discussions will continue with parents and staff throughout the consultation as it will be important to hear their thoughts and support them through the process.

“However, I am confident that whatever is decided, it will be because it is in the best interests of these 14 pupils, particularly if a move to a new school within Hawick provides them with all the social and learning opportunities that being in a larger setting with children of their own age could give them.”

The executive is also being asked to approve an update on progress made on a school estate review and proposals to be taken forward over the next year.

The report requests consent to undertake detailed assessments of Galashiels Academy, Hawick High, Peebles High and Selkirk High.

Each will have their condition, suitability and capacity examined in order to prioritise the order of investment in the region’s secondary schools over the next 10 to 15 years.

Assessment of the primary school estate already undertaken has identified that Earlston and Eyemouth’s schools are priorities for investment.

Agreement is also sought to progress with the closure of three mothballed primaries, at Eccles/Leitholm, Ettrickbridge and Hobkirk.

A separate paper will recommend the establishment of a new inter-generational campus in Jedburgh.

The executive committee meets next Tuesday, November 7, at 10am at the council’s Newtown headquarters.