Parent council prepares its case ahead of education chief’s visit

HAWICK, UNITED KINGDOM. - 18 / Sept / 2012 : 'Patrick Frieel and mother Daniele at St Margarets RC School'''(Photo by  Rob Gray / digitalpic / Freelance / � 2012)
HAWICK, UNITED KINGDOM. - 18 / Sept / 2012 : 'Patrick Frieel and mother Daniele at St Margarets RC School'''(Photo by Rob Gray / digitalpic / Freelance / � 2012)
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THE mother of a St Margaret’s pupil will next week urge the council to retain smaller schools so that parents have a choice in the type of primary education their child receives.

At a meeting at the school scheduled for Tuesday, Daniele Friell will implore education chief Glenn Rodger to offer a compromise on council plans to reduce the town’s only Catholic school to just one teacher, saying that children who struggle in larger schools should be able to enrol in smaller institutions.

Her son Patrick, aged nine, left doomed Roberton a year before the rural school closed and switched to Drumlanrig in time to start primary three in 2009. But, after failing to thrive in a larger, more populous setting he found comfort at St Margaret’s.

“One peg does not necessarily fit all holes,” explained Mrs Friell. “Why shouldn’t there be choice, especially for children who don’t settle in these larger schools?

“The school is under threat and it could be very unsettling for him. We haven’t contemplated what we would do if St Margaret’s became a one-teacher school, but hopefully Mr Rodgers will not take such a hard line.”

Mrs Friell cited major differences in the social dynamic between large schools and smaller institutions as a major reason for offering parents of children a choice of education type. “Patrick was only at Drumlanrig for a year, but did not settle in that much larger school,” she explained. “That’s why St Margarets is a Godsend.

“There just wasn’t the same rough and tumble, the playground hardness that you get in the much larger schools where children had known each other since nursery.

“He found his feet and made friends immediately when he arrived at St Margaret’s, just because it’s welcoming and caring. A child can easily sink or swim at a large school, and if they sink it’s a problem.

“He was very upset at leaving Roberton, and he knew the only reason he was moving was because his school was closing. I think continuity is incredibly important, especially if a child is happy, which he is. He has a good group of friends.

“The size of St Margaret’s and its facilities was a major attraction, including a playground that is not overcrowded and the upstairs hall for putting on plays and performances. It’s light and bright, and all the staff are friendly and helpful. Elsewhere, the class sizes can be high and the playgrounds overcrowded.”

At next week’s summit at the school, Mrs Friell will call for the council to implement strategies aimed at increasing the school roll. She is of the opinion that, in addition, the presence of a nursery at St Margaret’s would see the Buccleuch Terrace school not only become more viable but considerably grow its pupil roll.

“The nursery closure at Roberton was effectively the ‘death knell’,” she said.

“As soon as children go to another nursery, they form links and gain friends there and the small schools don’t get as many kids.

“That is the flaw with St Margaret’s.”