Midlothian parents 'devastated' as council threatens closure of St Matthew's RC Primary School in Rosewell
Parents and pupils have been left shocked and worried by a shock proposal to close a Midlothian primary school, which has been described as a ‘safe haven’ for children.
Midlothian Council has announced a proposal to launch a consultation on the closure of St Matthew’s RC Primary School, in Rosewell. The proposed closure is just one of many cuts to education suggested by the council, as they attempt to bridge their budget gap of over £14 million.
St Matthew’s, which has been running for 125 years, currently cares for over 50 children – many of whom have additional support needs.
Caroline Haddock, 36, is a mum of three children – two of whom attend St Matthew’s. Her 10-year-old son is just one of many pupils who have additional needs. She moved him to the primary after he struggled in a larger school. Since the move, Caroline said: "He has completely turned around, from a boy that was struggling and not coping to a boy that is exceeding expectations academically.” She believes the small supportive setting at the school can be transformative for children with additional needs, and is concerned that a move to a larger primary could set children like her son back – both academically and socially. Caroline’s eight-year-old daughter, a Primary 3 pupil at St Matthew’s, is also “terrified” at the prospect of having to move schools.
Mum of two, Gemma Leask, is “devastated” by the prospect that the school could close. Her daughter, who is in Primary 2, also moved to St Matthew’s after struggling in a larger school. Gemma believes that relocating schools would “massively affect” her child and set her back.
Like most other parents, she only found out about the proposal on Friday, through a press release posted on the council’s website. Gemma said: "To hit us with this news only a week before it goes to a vote is absolutely horrendous.”
Many parents are upset that Midlothian Council is considering closing a Catholic school. One mother, Anna Baginska, has a daughter in Primary 4 and a son in Primary 1. Her eldest is currently preparing for her first communion at school, but she said: “My son won't have the same opportunity if they close the school.” Caroline added: “There are families that moved to Rosewell specifically for this school, so their kids could have this amazing Catholic education. It’s unfair that they’ll have to go to different town if they want their child to continue their Catholic education”.
The council has plans to move pupils to two other schools in Midlothian– nearby Rosewell Primary and St Marys RC in Bonnyrigg. However, Caroline said: “There’s no space in these schools. From what I have been told, Rosewell Primary is already bursting at the seams”. While St Matthew’s is currently under capacity, she believes the empty spaces could soon be filled, as the village continues to grow. One hundred family homes are currently being built in Rosewell, and another 295 houses are soon to be completed as part of a nearby development.
According to the council, closing the school would save a total of £290,000. However, parents at the school believe that it could cost more money to relocate their children to other primaries, taking into account travel and more support staff for pupils with additional needs.
The proposal to close the school will be considered at a special council meeting on January 31. A group of parents, including Caroline, Gemma and Anna, are urging councillors not to vote for the consultation. "It’s so much more than a school, it’s a safe-haven”, said Caroline. “Don’t do this to our children.”
A Midlothian Council spokesman said: “A consultation on the potential to close St Matthew’s is among many proposals across all services to be considered by councillors before the council must set a balanced budget on 21 February. No decisions have been made on if the consultation will go ahead.
“There are currently 51 children at the school in three classes. If councillors vote in favour of the consultation, pupils, staff, parents and carers, the Roman Catholic Church and the wider community will have the opportunity to give their views. These would be considered along with, for example, projected pupil roll numbers.”