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The truths they don't want you to read....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

School closures; a different way

My visit to Uist resulted in lots of very useful information, pointers and general rumour. 

Sometimes some facts come my attention that were quite unexpected.

With all the conflict in Lewis over the closure of schools on a scale that hasn't been seen since a similar exercise happened in Uist, it was intriguing to hear about about a parental view that was just that bit more nuanced.

Normally the pupils at Carinish would go to Paible school for their secondary education.

I am told, by one of the parents, that all P7 pupils have elected to go to Sgoil Lionacleit instead, effectively precipitating the closure of Paibleas there will only be one pupil in Secondary 1 in the coming year.

The reasons are many, but appear to focus on the large class sizes and the opportunities to mix.  Apparently some of the pupils have had the same teacher - and only the one teacher - for their entire primary education, which cannot be good when the rest of us have had to appreciate and endure the teaching vagaries of the excellent, the vague, the criminally insane and the dangerously neurotic occupants of the staff room.

The parents believe that a bigger school will deliver more opportunities and will secure the future of Sgoil Lionacleit with bigger and better facilities.

Are they right, or are the Lewis parents who reject that view right?  I suspect that in the long run the Uist parents are right, painful as that might be for the local communities.

Life is never that black and white, and making difficult decisions is never easy, but you have to appreciate that parents can sometimes take a seemingly perverse view for all the right reasons.  Kudos to all the parents for doing the best for their children.


Anonymous said...


There's a lot more than meets the eye on this one.

Several years ago a parent mentioned to me it would be far more beneficial for the kids if they closed the small schools, putting the kids into bigger schools with more options & facilities. Part of the money saved would be put into community buses that took the kids too & from schools but also linked the communities with an excellent bus timetable that could not only take the kids to school but also the parents to work, etc, etc.

So everyone has a different and very often valid viewpoint.

Anyone who thinks that young folk are going to move to an area to BUY a feu from a community landlord (who got funding to buy the land!) AND to build a house and do all this with a view to making a living from 'crofting' is delusional. And delusional in the extreme if they think there are going to be enough of these wanabe crofters to support a school.

Anonymous said...

How arrogant of you to suggest that parents would put the survival of rural schools and the relevant communities before the educational needs of their children!

Centralising secondary education undoubtedly serves the needs of the council but does not always meet the needs of the children, who at the present time receive an excellent eduation in our rural secondary schools attested to by their attainment records. If parents felt that their children would benefit greatly by being educated in the Nicolson then they would be fighting tirelessy to ensure that this was so. However, 'bigger schools'do not always offer 'more options and facilities' - in actual fact it can be more limiting offering opportunites only to those who excel and excluding some who are keen but have less abilities.

And while we hope to still have viable rural communities that our children would return to crofting is not the only form of emloyment and not the only reason for their return - attachment to and involvement in the community that they are raised in is often a reason for their return - and by centalisng services in Stornoway once again rural communities will be failed - but this will be of little consequence to all of you who live in or around Stornoway.

Anonymous said...

2.45 There's actually quite a few of us in the country who would love to have better transport to get our kids to bigger, better provisioned primary schools. That doesn't mean we don't support others in their support for smaller rural schools, but given the choice for our own...Having said that, the whole department could do with a rethink as more and more we are hearing of standards falling and its time to make sure that the elitism at the Nicci gets buried with the other rubbish - NOT recycled into the new school!

Anonymous said...

Not sure if you're comparing like with like, Angus.

For all the distance kids have to travel to and from North Uist, Lionacleit is, in essence, a rural school with a smaller sized community and classes than the Nicolson.

The Nicolson is a larger school. It's also very much part of an urban world and shares many of the problems of any similar sized school on the mainland. One can understand why parents from the rural districts might be concerned about their kids moving to its buildings.

Anonymous said...

And Liniclate doesn't have any problems like mainland schools?!!

Anonymous said...

Asking a child to spend an hour on the bus is hardly child labour, S1 & S2 as part of a rural school is a nonsense, The NI is hardly the bronx, kids have to grow up some time and is keeping them in a primary school till their 14 doing them, or the 5 year olds they are mixing with any good.
They have to go into the big bad world some time, keeping them close to mummy just delays the inevitable.

Anonymous said...

Having had my early education, and there is much more to education than what is available in a school, in a rural primary before going to the NI I can safely say that all my bad habits, indicipline, and general obnoxiousness I learned in Stornoway.

Anonymous said...

It must have gone completely unnoticed that the situation with Paible has already taken place in Daliburgh. Here, the secondary department has already been closed, directly as a result of the parents and children electing to have the kids start their secondary education on 1st year in Linclate instead of 3rd.

Like Paible, the reasons were various. However, the overwhelming feeling was that the secondary department was simply not up to the job, and parts of the primary very questionable.

The frustration as a parent is that while I can recognise that there are some benefits with a small school roll, to suggest that there may also be failings was tantamount to heresay. Reacting - or even recognising- constructive criticism and engagement with the community was considered with complete disdain in some quarters.

Unfortunately, iving in a rural environment and being prepared to criticise so called professional people you also have to also meet socially is aking to have a bell round your neck and go around yelling 'unclean, unclean'

The cosy relationship between the administration within the education department and incompetent teachers has done no one, or the community, any favours

Dr Evadne said...

Don't trust everything you read on Hebrides News:

Anonymous said...

8.48 Bet a pound to a dollar you live in or near Stornoway!

Hardly child labour eh? Children from some communities leave home at 7.15am and don't arrive home till 5.15pm - making this a longer day than most workers in the council offices - and that is providing they don't stay for after school activities - you are talking about 11 year olds for goodness sake. These children are on the bus to school when most Stornoway pupils are still in their beds - fair eh? Yes of course it is if you live in Stornoway!! And as for not doing them any good - their attainment records are better than the Nicolson's!!

Obviously you managed all the classes on patronising language when you were in school, but you must have missed some grammar surely you meant "till they're"

Anonymous said...

Re - 7.06

Of course, Lionacleit has problems. Schools deal with adolescents, where the human being is often at its most troubled, miserable etc. Unlike the Nicolson, though, pupils do not have the additional problem of adjusting from country to town life. It makes all the difference.

stopcallingmeshirley said...


'Obviously you managed all the classes on patronising language when you were in school, but you must have missed some grammar surely you meant "till they're" '

Until they are ....surely?

Anonymous said...

If you really want to figure out why Daliburgh closed have a look at
This says it all or rather it is the parts that doesn't mention that are the most telling. It has been failing for a long time and the pupils have been let down for a considerable period of time by a particularly poor group of teachers. As for Lionocleit it is only slightly better. The new head may just turn the place round.

Anonymous said...

As someone who has spent time traveling to SY on a Monday morning, staying in a hostel, until Friday night and seeing first hand the level of disruption to some students education, from the age of 12, due to extreme bullying and who also has had children of my own travel on buses to SY every day and have seen the level of disrubtion to their education also.

It is incredible that our supposidly elected officials can even contemplate returning to exposing young students to this environment.

The start to secondary education that students gain by staying in the outlaying rural schools until such time as their focus on education and maturity is enhanced can not be measured in pounds sterling, even if their financial arguments stand up to scrutiny.

Clearly they have no concept with regard to what the result of their actions will entail, if they manage to reverse the current sensible decision, not just to the students but also to the communities they are destroying.

Shame on each and every one of them who deprive these students and communities.

Anonymous said...

Why is there an automatic assumption that Stornoway is the best place for the principal school? Lionacleit has at least the benefit of being in the middle of North and South Uist. I would have thought that the equivalent for Lewis would probably be Lochs. Why not put the money into Lochs and bus the little angels there from Stornoway.

The same principle can be applied to primaries. Stop centralising everything in towns. Rather than close the rural school just increase the catchment area to achieve viability. How many parents would love to see their children sent to a fantastic wee primary like Eoligarry, Eriskay or Seilibost instead of Castlebay, Daliburgh or Leverburgh?

With a bit of imagination we could even be offering boarding facilities to allow those poor souls on the mainland to send their kids here for a decent education.