Parents’ fears for Midlothian’s Catholic schools

Children and parents at St Luke's are worried the school will close. Photo by Lisa Ferguson.
Children and parents at St Luke's are worried the school will close. Photo by Lisa Ferguson.
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Parents of pupils at St Luke’s Primary School in Mayfield have started a campaign over concerns about the council’s plans for Catholic schools.

The school’s parent council has set-up a petition and a Facebook page - ‘Save our Catholic Schools’ – amid fears that Midlothian Council’s ongoing review into denominational schools will see St Luke’s Primary close.

Midlothian currently has seven Catholic primary schools and one high school. The local authority is currently looking at eight options as part of ongoing proposals to save money, and said that no decision has been made yet.

The options include merging the seven primary schools into one school to be located at the Dalkeith Schools Campus next to St David’s RC High School. Parents say they have been told that one of the proposals, to retain the status quo, has been taken off the table. This leaves no other option which would retain St Luke’s Primary.

In a letter sent to all Midlothian councillors, seen by the Advertiser, the parents’ group calls for a meeting with the elected members and said: “This review has caused a great deal of concern within our school and wider community.

“We find it incredulous that the Roman Catholic primary school with the largest pupil roll and with one of the highest Roman Catholic populations has been given no available option to preserve our community.

“We cannot understand Midlothian Council’s proposal to close our school when we have achieved county recognition for our attainment levels. As a Parent Council we would like to understand the rationale on how these changes will be beneficial to our children’s education.

“We are looking for elected representatives to support us in making our case to Midlothian Council.”

The letter added: “We are concerned that the changes that Midlothian Council are proposing will lead to the erosion of our community history as our Roman Catholic children will be segregated from their wider community.

“We fear that this will lead to tensions and division within Mayfield. This, to us, feels like a huge step back in time when the community was divided on religious grounds.”

A Midlothian Council spokesperson stressed the current review is part of its wider 2017-2047 Learning Estate Review. The spokesperson said: “We currently have 907 primary pupils in seven schools, less than 400 of whom align themselves with the Roman Catholic faith. Often recruiting Roman Catholic teachers to those seven schools is a challenge, a challenge faced by all Scottish authorities. Midlothian Council is trying hard to protect the future of denominational education against a backdrop of falling Roman Catholic teacher numbers across Scotland.

“To address this challenge the council considers that we require fewer denominational schools. A review of denominational school provision is therefore underway to establish the best strategy to continue to provide denominational education in Midlothian.

“We are working pro-actively with the church, Roman Catholic headteachers, our communities and the denominational representative on the council, to identify a sustainable solution.

“We recently held some initial informal pre-consultation meetings to get views from local people and feedback on discussion models. The discussion models are based around combining schools and no specific closure proposals have yet been formulated. The feedback is on our website, along with an update on our position posted last week from Dr Mary Smith, our Director of Education, Communities and Economy.

“We aim to finish the pre-consultation stage in the coming months and to start the formal consultation process next year. As discussed at meetings, this process will take us well into 2020.”