THE Borders’ most senior education councillor has pledged his support for St Joseph’s Primary School in Selkirk, despite it only having a handful of Roman Catholics on its roll of just 19 pupils.
Councillor Sandy Aitchison (Galashiels, BP), was speaking after a year-long strategic review by Scottish Borders Council into Roman Catholic education in the region.
Out of six options, councillors have selected two for a two-month-long public consultation, these being either one ‘super head’ to lead all four of the Borders’ RC primaries, or a return to the shared headship arrangement in place prior to the review, which would see St Joseph’s linked with St Margaret’s in Hawick.
The review was sparked by recurring problems over recruiting head teachers and concerns over performance.
The review also flagged up that of the 19 pupils at St Joseph’s, the proportion of RC children on the roll was low. In fact, of the 162 pupils at the four schools, only 47 per cent are Roman Catholic.
Mr Aitchison, executive member for education and chair of the review group, told us: “There is a fear out there because the rolls have been falling, so we need to find a way of improving the rolls.
“I have no personal agenda to close any school. That is not what I came into this job to do. I want to give them the opportunity to thrive.”
And Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar (Ind), a member of the education committee, says there is still a place for faith schools.
“The Catholic church used to provide these schools until the Education Act came in, in 1948, I think, which then saw this role incorporated into state school provision.
“If there is a need, then it has to be provided for,” he said.
Mr Edgar says St Joseph’s has played an integral part in community life in the royal burgh for many years.
He said: “It has been, and is, an important provision within Selkirk and this review was how we go about improving and maintaining a level of education.
“There has been a lot of rumours circulating, but there was no other agenda than that as far as this review was concerned.”