WE ARE writing to refute and challenge the representation of Kilmarnock offered by the book mentioned in your article “Kilmarnock dubbed worst place to live in Scotland” (News, 27 October).
As headteachers we are responsible for the education and nurture of thousands of young people, many of whom are Kilmarnock residents. Kilmarnock’s four secondary schools work hard, in partnership with local employers, communities and other groups, and supported by the council, to ensure these young people have skills and ambitions and that they are not limited by the very negative attitudes towards their locale that are in evidence in this book. Not only are the comments in the book (as reported) spurious and ill-informed, they carry an unpleasant connotation of sneering disdain that reinforces negative stereotypes and low self-esteem.
Kilmarnock has been presented with challenges in recent times, but it has responded with resilience and creativity and has invested heavily in supporting and developing its young to lead communities and drive regeneration. Each school has well-developed links with successful, internationally renowned local businesses; our attainment is healthy and improving; the range of experiences our pupils have is diverse and challenging. Our motivation is to produce capable young people who have aspirations for themselves and for their communities. It is sad to find that others would choose to work against this for commercial gain, perhaps unaware of how impressionable young people might be swayed by seeing negativity about their town in print.
It is easy to overlook the fact that, while written in a spirit of misplaced irony and humour, such books damage the confidence of communities and individuals. Given the upward trajectory of the town in recent years, we hope that any hurt caused by this book is short-term and is mitigated by the many significant achievements associated with the town and particularly the young. The authors of the book are welcome to visit our schools and our town any time to reassess their view.
Ben Davis, acting headteacher, St Joseph’s Academy; Bryan Paterson, headteacher, Kilmarnock Academy; Fred Wildridge, headteacher, Grange Academy