We have been through a tough time as a community in recent months our treasured primary school appeared on the council’s proposed list of school closures and was put forward to go through a consultation process with the possible closure planned to happen in October this year.
As parents we were thrown into turmoil, to see little ones in tears at night about the thought of losing their school, wondering how the staff would manage to carry on with Christmas pantomimes and planned school trips, when the future lay ahead of them in an uncertain light, daring to imagine the worst scenario and how it would impact on our children’s education and on our community, which has seen a gradual erosion of facilities over the past few years.
At our primary school, the children, encouraged and led by the staff, have taken ownership of their school and its surroundings. Having set targets, they enlisted the help of parents, members of the local community and local businesses and we soon found ourselves involved in their planned days of action. The children worked with the community painting, digging, fencing, planting and of course enjoying refreshments, and the grounds were developed into a large, welcoming space for imaginary play, complete with a recycled Wendy house and a climbing wall. An active learning area was created, with raised beds, where the children now grow their own produce, developing and learning about the mini eco system surrounding their raised beds, a gardening club is run by a local couple, who have a fantastic horticultural knowledge. One poly tunnel got demolished by the strong gales; a sturdier model lies in the shed awaiting the go ahead to be constructed. A nature area encourages wildlife and many species of birds to visit our school. The children have made bird feeders, with the help of visiting specialists from the RSPB; nesting boxes have been erected with cameras inside so the children can watch, from their laptops, as nesting inhabitants nurture their young.
Across the road from the school grounds there is a path leading to woodland and a nature trail leading past several Lochs. The children regularly go on nature walks. In the late summer they collect brambles, returning to school to weigh them, the pre fives bake scones, P1-4 bake bread and P5-7 make the bramble jelly, and then having completed their sums around this project, and having learnt about the related health and hygiene of food preparation, the whole school have a huge feast from their pickings and labours, leaving school with healthy happy smiling faces.
As parents we are regularly invited to workshops with our children, to participate in their learning, as they guide us through presentations and scenarios on topics such as first aid and healthy living. Many of the fathers are on the RNLI crew; one father is the coxswain. The close proximity of the school to the lifeboat station means these dads are able to participate fully in their children’s education, carrying their pagers with them, they attend assemblies and workshops, safe in the knowledge they can be at the life boat in a moment’s notice.
We are incredibly fortunate; we have a strong and committed leader, an enthusiastic and dedicated staff, our school building is in a very good condition. Our HMIe report was glowing; the Child Care Commission inspection led to the school gaining two excellent marks, Gaelic is taught to every year group. The school has exceeded targets set in reading, writing and maths. The smaller school roll means that our children get valued one to one time with their teachers, that they are part of a strong community where they mix freely across the age ranges, the older ones looking out for the younger members. Each child has their own learning log, in which they share their success and achievements, note the areas they wish to work on and list their next steps. The school is an achieving school, in so many ways.
Why then, when they have something so right could the council consider closing this school down?
Over the past few weeks we have had visits from various councillors and an MP.
On Thursday we got the wonderful news that Keills primary school has been removed from the list of proposed school closures….
Until next time….