Catchment area rejig planned in bid to save school near Selkirk from closure threat

Yarrow Primary School.
Yarrow Primary School.

Council bosses are planning a rejig of school catchment areas in a bid to save a village primary from facing the threat of closure.

Scottish Borders Council’s executive committee has voted to begin consultation on redrawing the boundary between two primaries’ catchment areas in the hope of boosting the smaller one’s chances of survival.

Philiphaugh Community School in Selkirk.

Philiphaugh Community School in Selkirk.

That move has been prompted by an ongoing decline in the number of pupils attending Yarrow Primary School, midway between Yarrow and Yarrow Feus.

Council officers hope to boost its pupil roll by extending its catchment area east to include homes currently within the catchment patch for Philiphaugh Community School in Selkirk.

That plan would mean that children in Yarrowford and Broadmeadows, to the west of Selkirk, would attend Yarrow Primary instead of the Philiphaugh school, over eight miles east, in Linglie Road.

The Yarrow Valley school, built in the 1960s, has capacity for 50 pupils but only 13 on its register at present.

It is currently expected that no children will enrol in its primary one year this August, leading to its register dropping to 11 names for next academic year.

The Philiphaugh school has 166 pupils on its register at the moment, 126 of primary age and 40 aged two to four in early learning and childcare classes.

Parents and carers in both schools’ patches are to be consulted about the proposed change.

Michelle Strong, the council’s chief education officer, told the committee’s meeting this week: “One of the key outcomes of the school estates review was a commitment to work with schools where the school roll has fallen below 50 to ensure sustainability.

“The rural schools act requires local authorities to explore all possible mitigation against closure of rural schools, and through working with Yarrow Primary, we’ve agreed that one of these mitigations would be to review the catchment area.

“It’s very important that if we get to the closure of a school, we have evidence of any mitigations previously used to keep the school open.

“There are currently 11 children in the school, plus two who have made placement requests to attend Yarrow Primary, but Yarrowford and Broadmeadows, currently in the Philiphaugh Primary School catchment area, are in similar proximity to Yarrow.

“During informal public engagement, feedback has shown that there are families living in these areas who would be interested in attending Yarrow Primary.

“We are seeking permission to consult formally on the proposal.

“It is considered there would be minimal impact on the roll at Philiphaugh.

“If the consultation leads to a revision of the catchment area, families would be informed of the arrangements, with any child attending either school able to continue to do so for the time of their primary education.

“Only new enrolments would be considered to be in the new catchment.”

Ms Strong also pointed out that there would be financial implications for the council if the catchment areas are revised as there will be additional transport costs for pupils.

Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar spoke out in favour of the consultation, saying: “This is an excellent proposal.

“I recommend that we go ahead with the consultation as we need to retain the school if possible, and the distances involved at the moment are just silly.”

Councillors voted unanimously to begin consulting families.

That consultation is set to run throughout this month, culminating in public meetings on Thursday, May 23, at Yarrow Primary and Philiphaugh Community School, at 5.30pm and 7.30pm respectively.