BY Ryan McDougall | June 21 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

3 - st sophias

Catholic primary school saved by the efforts of the community

A Catholic school in East Ayrshire has been saved from closure thanks to campaigning parents.

The future of St Sophia’s Primary School, Galston, has been the subject of debate for several months, after a consultation with the community was launched in January.

The options being considered were to refurbish the existing school, incorporate St Sophia’s into St Andrew’s Primary School at the St Joseph’s Campus, Kilmarnock, or move the pupils to an extension at the nearby non-denominational Loudoun Academy campus.

 

School saved

Following the consultation, East Ayrshire Council announced on Wednesday June 12 the decision to refurbish St Sophia’s, meaning the school is safe.

It follows an 84 per cent vote in favour of the revamp from an online survey of 372 people and a 97 per cent vote at a series of public meetings at which 123 people had their say.

Elizabeth Heron, headteacher of St Sophia’s, said: “We are all absolutely thrilled with the decision—everybody at the school is delighted.

“People were overwhelmingly in favour of us remaining at our current site and the cabinet said they accept the overwhelming will of the people.”

 

Best decision

Hannah Farley, a representative of the parent council who campaigned for the refurbishment, added: “It’s the correct decision for the school and the wider community.”

Sending the children to the St Joseph’s Campus would have meant most would have had to travel a total of 20 miles to and from school each day, and parents feared amalgamating the school with Loudoun Academy could mean St Sophia’s would lose its Catholic identity.

Ms Farley said: “Although St Joseph’s is a Catholic school it was too far for some of the kids.

“A 20-mile round trip for a five-year-old is not a good idea. Loudoun wasn’t really an option either.

“As far as we’re concerned, the refurb shows that the future of the school will be secure for years to come.”

 

Government support

Government and council representatives have also welcomed the decision.

Alan Brown, MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, said: “I am delighted to hear the council has approved plans to refurbish St Sophia’s Primary for a number of reasons.

“Members from the school’s parent council met with me and I sent a letter of support to the council in the first consultation stage so this is great news.

“It is the best outcome for the school and more importantly for the pupils who are settled there. I have spoken to concerned parents over the past few months and I know how relieved they will be that they won’t have to relocate their children.”

 

Importance

He added: “As someone who has spent their whole life residing in the Irvine Valley, I know how important the school is to the local Catholic community.”

Councillor Fiona Campbell, cabinet member for skills and lifelong learning, noted the ‘passion of the school community’ and said it was ‘clear from the talks’ and the ‘many submissions’ that St Sophia’s is a ‘very successful school which sits right in the heart of its local community.’

Councillor Gordon Jenkins expressed his support for the decision.

“Of course it’s an old building, and this presents many challenges so we have to be realistic as to what can be achieved with the budget available, but we are happy to back this option,” he said.

Over £2.8 million has been earmarked for the upgrade and a project manager is expected to be appointed soon.

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