Headlines: June 6th, 2005

Primary schools in rural areas of Scotland are expanding their traditional roles to meet the wider needs of their local communities, according to research published today by Children in Scotland, the national agency for voluntary, statutory and professional organisations and individuals working with children and families.A new report, “A sense of time, a sense of place: meeting the needs of the whole child in small communities”, is part of the organization’s “Growing Up in Rural Scotland”. It says many schools have become a focal for the delivery of a range of services in their communities.

All 14 local authorities involved in the study based some form of additional service provision within their schools. The most common was nursery provision, which is available on all primary premises. Other services include baby clinics, creches, parenting programmes, breastfeeding support groups, after-school care, breakfast clubs and in one case, a toy library.

The report also finds that professionals visiting schools were seen as a practical way of delivering additional services to children and families without the high costs of basing services in schools full-time. The range of professionals visiting schools and pre-schools in Moray, for example, include speech and language staff, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, a dentist, a doctor and specialist teachers for children with visual or hearing impairment, police education officers, health visitors, social workers and staff from the child and adolescent mental health service.

Natalie Morgan-Klein, research officer at Children in Scotland, said falling birth rates and people moving away from remote and rural areas made the unit cost of providing services high and threatened their stability. “However, high quality and accessible services are exactly what these areas need if they are to attract new people and encourage those who already live there to stay,” she said. “Making more effective use of schools enhances their viability by enabling them to make a bigger contribution to the community they serve,” she added.