Review into Galashiels educational facilities sparks concern over St Margaret’s RC Primary School

Fears have been expressed over the long-term future of Galashiels’ only Roman Catholic primary school amid plans for a new £61.6m inter-generational campus in the town.

Thursday, 25th July 2019, 3:24 pm
Galashiels councillor Andy Anderson at St Margaret's RC School.

Galashiels is in line to be the next town in the Borders to get a new school site, following on from Kelso and Jedburgh.

Education chiefs are recommending that councillors approve the facility, which would be due to open in 2023.

The plans would see 1,100 secondary school pupils, 50 additional support staff, 650 primary school pupils and 200 nursery children educated across the campus, to be split between the new Langlee Primary School and a new building at either Scott Park or Netherdale.

Although the cross-generational campus is preferred, there is also public consultation over potential for a stand-alone secondary school building which would cost £47.9m. As part of the process, a review of the school estate in the Borders is ongoing. There is particular concern over the long-term future of the existing 11 primary schools in Galashiels.

Decisions over those schools’ futures will be taken on a range of issues, including the condition of the educational facilities and current occupancy levels.

St Margaret’s RC primary in Livingston Place is the town’s only denominational primary school.

Parents there have expressed worries over its future should approval be given for the new campus, one parent telling the Southern: “We’re not sure what the future holds. We don’t want the town to no longer have a denominational facility.”

This week, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh encouraged everyone involved with the school to have their say during the review process.

It is a view echoed by Galashiels and District councillor Andy Anderson.

He said: “The primary schools are under review in the light of the new proposals, and further consultation with the schools and the wider community needs to go ahead first.

“In addition, I believe that for denominational schools the government minister also needs to be informed and can call in any proposed closure.

“I would want to see a full and meaningful consultation process regarding the future of primary schools in Galashiels, and those in Stow, Fountainhall and Heriot, in order to hear the teachers’, parents’ and pupils’ views.

“It is imperative that Scottish Borders Council gets this right for the shape of the future education of all children in the catchment area.”

The spokesman for the Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh said: “While the review of the school estate is at an early stage, we would encourage parents of pupils at St Margaret’s RC primary school to contribute to contribute to that process to ensure that their voices are heard.”

St Margaret’s is currently ranked on the lowest C level for the standard of the school building, denoting it is in a poor condition with major defects. It has an occupancy of 50 per cent.

That is not the lowest occupancy level among primary schools in the Galashiels area, however, with Fountainhall primary having an occupancy of just 32 per cent.

What seems certain is that the town’s most recently built school, Langlee primary, will be retained as part of the school review process.

A recent report presented to members of Scottish Borders Council expressed the need to treat St Margaret’s with special attention.

It said: “It must be noted that any option for Galashiels that considers making changes to St Margaret’s RC primary will require careful consideration and planning, given the particular protections and processes attached to denominational education.”