Concerns have been raised over the decision to send the pupils responsible for recent unruly behaviour at Hawick High School to primary schools for work experience as punshiment.
Some of the youngsters involved have been taken out of the school and placed in what is being described as “alternative education packages”, including placements within the region’s primary schools.
The move comes after police were drafted into the school in the weeks leading up to Christmas after claims that anti-social behaviour at the Buccleuch Road school had spiralled out of control, leaving staff and other pupils feeling unsafe.
Though Police Scotland has hailed the initiative a success, the town’s community council this week questioned whether allowing pupils to move to other schools to carry out work placements was a suitable punishment.
Community councillor Greg McLeod said: “We’ve heard that the kids that have been excluded have been ferried out to other Borders schools and some even to primary schools. It’s concerning.”
The community council’s vice-chairman, Cameron Knox, added that the initiative “is not really punishment” and suggested: “It’s do bad and go somewhere else.”
However, Hawick High headteacher Vicky Porteous, there at Monday night’s meeting of the community council, said that the alternative education packages being offered to the youngsters are a way of dealing with those among them who “are struggling in mainstream education”.
She also reassured members that all relevant checks had been put in place to ensure no youngsters are put at risk.
Ms Porteous said: “There is a detailed plan that has been put in place by Scottish Borders Council in conjunction with the school and other partners.
“We will be reviewing that at the next parent council meeting on January 23, when we will be talking about that has happened and what progress the young people have been making.
“Young people have been given alternative educational opportunities with a view that they will return to Hawick High School at a later time.
“They will be doing some work experience.”
She added: “If young people are struggling in mainstream education, they will get alternative education packages.
“Different things work for different young people.”
As part of an ongoing initiative, three new youth workers are also being allocated to each guidance house to deal with attendance and contact families, while another youth worker and a teacher will work in the inclusion base.
The school’s pupil council will also be reformed in a bid to give youngsters more of a voice.
Police said the problems were coming from a small minority of children, and this week Hawick community constable Fraser Mortimer, said: “The community council will be aware from the recent media interest that police officers were deployed at the school in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
“This joint partnership approach led by education was a success.”
A Scottish Borders Council spokesman added: “The measures put in place at Hawick High towards the end of last year, along with partners, have resulted in a significant improvement in pupil behaviour and we would like to thank pupils and staff for their support and the progress that has been made to date, however this is the start of a journey.
“An immediate action plan has been implemented and medium and long term plans are being developed and will be shared and discussed with the parent council in due course.
“The school and council are committed to ensuring that all pupils receive the support they require and can access the right blend of academic and vocational opportunities appropriate to their aspirations.
“If parents have any concerns, we would ask that they raise these with the headteacher to ensure that they can be appropriately dealt with.”
Ms Porteous also vowed to work with the community council to make sure Hawick put forward a strong representation in its bid to be the next Borders town to benefit from a new high school.
Parents are invited to the next meeting of Hawick High’s parent council in the school on Tuesday, January 23, at 6.30pm.