Lothian school with only 18 children could face closure

A school that is ‘no longer viable’ after a drop in pupil numbers to 18 with no P1 pupils enrolled for the coming year is facing closure.

By Jolene Campbell
Wednesday, 30th June 2021, 12:33 pm
St Margaret’s RC Primary School, Loanhead could close its doors

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St Margaret’s in Loanhead has a falling roll and very small numbers of children expected to attend there from August 2021, a review of denominational schools has found.

Midlothian council said it will carry out a public consultation on its proposal to close the school and extend the catchment areas of the neighbouring RC primary schools, St Mary’s in Bonnyrigg and Sacred Heart in Penicuik, to include the catchment area of St Margaret’s.

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It comes after the school roll at St Margaret’s dropped from 40 to 18 pupils and the council said they expected a number of these children will move to other schools in the near future.

There are no P1 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 6 pupils. On this basis, the school would operate only one class of pupils in P2 to P7 together.

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.

Retention of teaching staff was also considered as part of the review, as RC primary schools across Midlothian were operating with only 50 per cent of teaching staff having Church approval.

But after efforts to boost teacher numbers the council expects that next year, 67 per cent of the class teachers in its RC primary schools will have the required qualifications.

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

As part of the council’s wider learning estate strategy also plans for investment in new schools and school expansions, including the refurbishment and expansion of St David’s Primary School in Dalkeith and an extension to St Andrew’s Primary School in Gorebridge.

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 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.

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