‘Culture of bullying’ sparks war of words

St Columba's RC Primary School, Cupar
St Columba's RC Primary School, Cupar

CRITICISM of Castlehill Primary School in Cupar has met with a furious response from parents.

The Fife Herald has received a bumper postbag in support of the school following our article last week in which Cupar mum Elaine Colliar claimed she refused to send her young son there because of bullying.

She said that because he had been refused a place at St Columba’s she had no option other than to enrol him at Dairsie, a round trip of six miles which she could ill afford.

Her comments were categorically denied by area education officer John McLaughlin, who said that Castlehill was one of Fife’s highest achieving and most effective schools, with an anti-bullying policy that was strictly implemented.

This week his assurance was endorsed by Councillor Bryan Poole, Fife Executive’s education spokesman.

“My own children attended Castlehill Primary School - some years ago now - and it was an excellent school then. If anything it is even better now,“ said Councillor Poole.

“You only have to drop into the school for a few minutes to sense the very positive learning environment which has been created and which allows and encourages the very best learning opportunities and experiences for the pupils. Colourful displays on the walls, happy smiling staff and well mannered children who are obviously enjoying being there.

“I am also fortunate in that I am a regular attender at meetings of the Parent Council which along with the School Association work in partnership with the headteacher - a partnership that benefits all of the pupils attending Castlehill.

“More importantly than my opinion is the opinion of the HMIe and from them the school has received glowing reports. There is little doubt that, as John McLaughlin stated last week, Castlehill is one of Fife’s highest performing and most effective schools.”

Councillor Poole added that the other schools in Cupar - St Columba’s, Kilmaron and Bell Baxter - were just as highly regarded throughout Fife.

“We are indeed very fortunate in Cupar to have four excellent schools in our community which work well together to meet the needs of our young people,” he said.

Meanwhile parents met with education bosses on Monday night to be told why their children had not been given places at St Columba’s despite the fact that some already have siblings there.

This year there were 51 applications for just 26 places, leaving a group of Cupar parents bitterly disappointed.

Mr McLaughlin told them that Fife Council had a strict admissions policy which gave priority to baptised Catholics and this had been adhered to, although parents have a right of appeal.

After the meeting, Annaline Barr, whose four-year-old daughter Daisy has not got a place at St Columba’s despite her older sister Darcy already being at the school, told the Fife Herald that the parents of nine children affected did intend to appeal.

“If we win our appeals the education department is obliged to find a place for our children at St Columba’s,” said Mrs Barr.

“However the last thing we would want would be to compromise the quality of the facilities there by other rooms having to be used as classrooms.

“We feel we’re between the devil and the deep blue sea.”