St Margaret’s school under the spotlight in council review

Councillor George Turnbull at Trinity steps
Councillor George Turnbull at Trinity steps

St Margaret’s school will be thrust under the spotlight after the announcement of a strategic review of Roman Catholic education by Scottish Borders Council this week.

A working group is to be formed made up of elected members, education officers, Roman Catholic (RC) and parent council representatives.

It is understood the findings of the group will not be revealed until next June – after the local government elections.

SBC’s executive member for education, Councillor George Turnbull refused to rule anything in or out from the review.

He said: “This is a very important review for the future of Roman Catholic education in the Borders.

“Along with other areas of Scotland, we have been struggling for some time to recruit headteachers to our Roman Catholic schools. All four of our RC schools have also shown varied performance on recent inspections. We therefore need to examine the situation very closely and through this working group, we are confident that we can put forward recommendations that will ensure the situation improves into the future.”

The school role at St Margaret’s currently sits at 22 pupils, while in the three other Borders RC schools the roles are, Halyrude RC Primary School, Peebles, 84; St Joseph’s RC Primary School, Selkirk, 25; and St Margaret’s RC Primary School, Galashiels, 60.

Catriona Finn, who is also interim headteacher in Hawick, is the only full-time head teacher, with her position at Selkirk.

One parent told the Hawick News: “I welcome the review as it gives us and the other schools the opportunity to get some well needed exposure and we may be able to enlighten the general public into all the huge strides forward that the school has made over the last few years.

“The staff are enthusiastic towards all their duties and although Catriona Finn is only acting head, this by no means detracts from the tremendous job she does. The issue of interim and acting headships are not only within the catholic schools and seeking new permanent head teachers will be an ongoing problem.

“It will be interesting to be involved within this review and see exactly what it is that Scottish Borders Council is actually trying to achieve.”

The group will carry out the review over the coming months with the aim of putting forward recommendations to help strengthen the leadership and quality of education provided in RC schools in the Borders.

This will include agreeing the scope of the review, looking at the range of issues surrounding the current and future delivery models and consulting widely with parents, pupils, teachers and the community.

Yvonne McCracken, SBC’s head of schools services (West) and acting director of education and lifelong learning explained: “There is no doubt we have been faced with a range of challenges in the delivery of Roman Catholic education in the Borders, and this review is an essential part of ensuring we are able to plan for the future of Roman Catholic education with confidence in the Borders. As part of this, we will be making it our absolute priority to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be involved in this review going forward.”