One small school in Greenock could be a template for state education in Scotland. Richard Bath explains why he sent his son there.
‘Alison Speirs can still remember the moment when she decided to change not just her own life but those of hundreds of children and their parents. It was in 1999 and she was a learning support specialist in the west of Scotland when she heard that one of the members of her church in Greenock had gifted £20,000 and was looking for a good cause. An idea that she had been playing with for many years finally took shape. She set up a school.
‘”I was being confronted every day with all of the problems that you find in schools in the state sector,” she says. “It’s far too boring for the kids, who spend far too much of their time sitting at their desks. That’s because there are just too many pupils and too few teachers, which means that children are left to their own devices far too often. As a teacher you spend time dealing with difficult or needy pupils, so you often find that many kids just drift through the day. As a result you find that the school ethos ends up being set by the pupils and not by the teachers. It’s rule by your peers, with all that entails, including lots of bullying. It’s not the way schools should be.”
‘A committed Christian, Speirs had recently visited a tiny faith primary school called the Regius School in Edinburgh and had come away inspired. Knowing there was a small pot of money available and that her church owned an unprepossessing but suitable building that was lying unused in one of the less salubrious suburbs of Greenock, she set to work.