Old boy Michael Russell back at Marr College

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EDUCATION secretary Michael Russell has received a warm welcome at his old school after previously claiming to have been banned.

In March, Mr Russell told MSPs in the Scottish Parliament that he had been barred from Marr College because of a series of critical articles written several years ago.

However, yesterday afternoon he met staff and pupils at the school in Troon, Ayrshire, and discussed preparations for the new Curriculum for Excellence.

The Cabinet secretary told MSPs of his ban during a debate in parliament last month.

He said: "The reason I was barred was because I wrote a number of articles which looked at the way in which that great school had fallen from greatness and asked why that was so."

The politician was ordered to stay away while he was the SNP's education spokesman in 1999.

His officials later said the ban was lifted in 2001 and he has since been back to visit the school.

During the visit he was updated by headteacher Paul Deacon about plans to refurbish parts of the school to help with the implementation of the new curriculum, due to be introduced in all schools in August.

He was also due to visit a refurbished and a non-refurbished chemistry classroom to see the difference being made.

Mr Russell attended Marr College in the 1960s when the now council-run school was a grant-aided comprehensive which admitted "every single child" in the town.

But there were "problems a-plenty" emerging at the school by the 1970s, Mr Russell added.

In March he said: "I probably speak as the only education secretary – certainly I was the only opposition education spokesperson – who was barred from his school when I achieved those offices."