Consultation on plans to close St Margaret’s RC Primary School in Loanhead

A statutory public consultation is to be carried out on a proposal to close St Margaret’s RC Primary School in Loanhead, and to extend the catchment areas of neighbouring Roman Catholic primary schools to include the St Margaret’s catchment area.

By Kevin Quinn
Thursday, 1st July 2021, 10:39 am
Updated Thursday, 1st July 2021, 10:42 am
St. Margaret's R.C. Primary School in Loanhead, which is earmarked for closure. Photo by Jon Savage.
St. Margaret's R.C. Primary School in Loanhead, which is earmarked for closure. Photo by Jon Savage.

The decision follows a review of denominational schools by Midlothian Council which has found that St Margaret’s is no longer viable due to the falling roll and very small numbers of children expected to attend there from August 2021.

The proposal would extend the catchment areas of the neighbouring Roman Catholic (RC) primary schools, St Mary’s in Bonnyrigg and Sacred Heart in Penicuik, to include the catchment area of St Margaret’s.

The school roll at St Margaret’s has fallen from 40 to 18 pupils and there are indications that a number of these children will move to other schools in the near future.

To date, there are no Primary 1 pupils enrolled at the school for the coming year and it is estimated that the school’s roll next year may be as low as six pupils.

On this basis, the school would operate one composite P2 to P7 class.

As a result of the review, the council has approved a recommendation that it retains six denominational primary schools (rather than seven) and one denominational secondary school in the area.

“Our key aim is to stabilise and strengthen denominational education within and across Midlothian,” said the Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Councillor Jim Muirhead (Lab).

“Following this very thorough review, we are now more optimistic about our ability to recruit and retain suitably qualified teachers.

“Midlothian has rising school rolls across both primary and secondary schools, and our Roman Catholic schools play an important role in providing capacity, particularly in areas where there is growing pressure, such as Bonnyrigg, Dalkeith, Gorebridge and Mayfield.

"Our review shows that our objectives can be better met by retaining 6 RC primary schools and 1 RC secondary school.”

The statutory consultation on St Margaret’s will start in September 2021 and, If approved, the arrangements for new catchment areas will be in place from June 2022.

At the start of the review, RC primary schools across Midlothian were operating with only 50 per cent of teaching staff having Church approval. Since then, there has been a sustained effort to employ a greater number of teachers with the necessary qualifications to teach in these schools. As a result, the council expects that next year, 67 per cent of the class teachers in its RC primary schools will have the necessary approval.

The council’s learning estate strategy also plans for investment in new schools and school expansions. Over the past year, the refurbishment and expansion of Sacred Heart Primary in Penicuik was completed and a new school building was opened at St Mary’s in Bonnyrigg.

The council has also been awarded funding as part of the Scottish Government’s Learning Estate Investment Programme to replace the Mayfield School Campus, including the replacement of St Luke’s RC Primary. Plans are also being developed for the refurbishment and expansion of St David’s Primary School in Dalkeith, and the strategy allows for an extension to St Andrew’s Primary School in Gorebridge.