SMALL independent schools will not survive without the strength that co-operation and, in some cases, amalgamation can bring, it was claimed yesterday.

Mrs Dianne Gardner, headmistress of Wellington School in Ayr, said schools were going to have to move with the times if they were to prosper.

She was speaking after it was confirmed that her school is to merge with Ayrshire's other independent school, Drumley House at Mossblown, from the beginning of the next academic year in August.

Despite initial resistance from the parents of some of the 60 Drumley House boys, there has been broad agreement for a merger and the school will close at the end of June.

Wellington was originally founded in 1836 as a college for young ladies and remained one of Scotland's last single-sex schools until September 1994.

Mrs Gardner said: ``At some stages as the school develops there will be more boys than girls, which is quite a change for Wellington. The changes have been coming thick and fast but I am confident everyone will benefit in the long run.''

There will be major refurbishment of Westfield House, which will be renamed Drumley House, with the creation of new classrooms and cloakrooms, a science room for primary pupils and an additional art studio and library.

Mrs Gardner added that more games and PE would be added to the primary curriculum following some alarming statistics about health among young people.

The head was critical of schools that ``cannot see the wood for the trees'' and fail to change with the times. She continued: ``They exist to provide an education appropriate to the age and meet the needs of society yet in some quarters there is, frankly, a tendency to live in the past.''