Councils £5.5m spend on schools with less than 10 pupils

Cairney Primary School has seven pupils. Picture: Google Maps
Cairney Primary School has seven pupils. Picture: Google Maps
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SCOTLAND’S councils spent almost £5.5 million last year running dozens of tiny schools with fewer than ten pupils - at a cost per pupil far higher than sending children to the country’s top private schools.

New figures revealed under Freedom of Information legislation show 249 children across Scotland are attending 46 schools which have fewer than ten children attending.

We need to support local rural communities but not at the expense of children elsewhere. In addition, the educational experience of pupils in tiny schools, can be impoverished.

Chris McGovern

The average spend per head for these schools is almost FIVE times that of the regular primary education budget.

Campaigners today said children at the schools can have an “impoverished” education.

The most expensive of these schools per pupil is Skerries Primary School, on the isle of Out Skerries, Shetland.

It has just one pupil - but has a budget of £75,357.00 for this year.

The most recent Audit Scotland figures show councils spent an average of £4,667 per primary school pupil.

Argyll and Bute Council spent £1.779 million running 14 schools with fewer than ten pupils - with Highland Council spending £1.2 million on 13 small schools.

Strath of Appin Gaelic Medium Unit in Appin, Argyll and Bute, had a budget last year of £258,016 for it’s four pupils.

It operates as part of the main Strath of Appin school, which has 29 pupils - but has a separate budget from the main school to fund teaching in the traditional language.

While many of the schools are in rural or island locations, some are just a short distance from other towns and educational facilities.

Blairingone Primary School in Perthshire has just four pupils, and costs £109,810 to run - £27,452 per head.

But the school sits just three miles from the Clackmannanshire town of Dollar - home to Strathdevon Primary School - and four miles from Crook of Devon’s Fossoway Primary School.

Even sending kids at the school to private Dollar Academy, also just three miles away, would be a far cheaper option.

It charges day pupils in its junior school £10,008 a year - around a third of the cost of the tiny primary school.

Cairney Primary School, near Huntly, Aberdeenshire, has only seven pupils - but has a budget of 162,254.55, employing two teachers and seven non-teaching staff.

Chris McGovern, chairman of the Campaign for Real Education, said: “We need to support local rural communities but not at the expense of children elsewhere.

“In addition, the educational experience of pupils in tiny schools, can be impoverished.

“One way of supporting small schools and rural communities is to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing to encourage an in-flow of young families.”

And a spokeswoman for the Scottish Parent Teacher Council said: “We believe the primary question to be resolved in relation to rural schools is that of educational benefit.

“Robust research into the realities of the quality of education delivered by rural schools seems to be a fundamental requirement in order that the debate is founded on fact rather than opinion.

“Equity, transparency and inclusiveness in the consultation process are, similarly, of critical importance.

“Finally, while we are committed to encouraging active travel to school, we believe the time has come to reassess what travel conditions and times are acceptable for school children.”


Aberdeenshire Council - One school, seven pupils, two teachers, 7 non teaching staff, £162,254.55 budget

Argyll and Bute Council - 14 schools, 90 pupils, 20.959 FTE staff, £1,779,091 budget

Dumfries and Galloway Council - Four schools, 17 pupils, 23 staff, £503,084 budget

Highland Council - 13 schools, 75 pupils, £1,212,914 budget

Orkney Islands Council - Three schools, 19 pupils, 6 FTE staff, £412,827 budget

Perth and Kinross Council - Two schools, 12 pupils, 4.2 FTE staff, £218,020 budget

Scottish Borders Council - One school, eight pupils, 3 FTE staff, £133,000 budget

Shetland Islands Council - Six schools, 19 pupils, £461,962.00 budget

South Lanarkshire Council - One school, seven pupils, 5 FTE staff, £496,000 budget (note - This is a special school, Hamilton School for the Deaf)

Stirling Council - One school, five pupils, 2.2 FTE staff, £71,175 budget

Totals - 46 schools, 249 pupils, POUNDS 5,450,327.55 - average of £21,888.86 per pupil

Aberdeen City, Clackmannanshire, Dundee City, East Ayrshire, East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Edinburgh City, Falkirk, Fife, Glasgow City, Inverclyde, Midlothian, Moray, North Ayrshire, North Lanarkshire, Renfrewshire, South Ayrshire, West Dunbartonshire, West Lothian and Western Isles Councils all said they had no schools with ten or fewer pupils.

Angus Council did not respond to the request, and East Lothian Council said they could not provide the requested information.