The School

There aren't many rural schools as close to Glasgow as Auchinloch Primary. Located in the village of the same name, it lies halfway between Stepps and Lenzie, occupying a sturdy 1930s building which offers plenty of spare space for a dining area and a music/TV/library room.

Though council reorganisation in 1996 reallocated Auchinloch from Dunbartonshire to North Lanarkshire, it is still zoned for secondary education to Lenzie Academy in East Dunbartonshire.

With a roll of 59, it has three teachers but no promoted staff other than the head teacher, who at present does not have a teaching commitment.

dick louden

asks Rosemary Gold how she copes with a composite class spanning three age ranges in a rural school

ROSEMARY Gold teaches a primary five/six/seven class of 19 pupils at Auchinloch Primary in North Lanarkshire. Last year she taught the infant classes.

How do you organise a class with such a wide age and ability range?

I have established four reading groups and three maths groups, based on the levels the children had achieved in national tests. You could almost call this a form of setting within the class.

We operate a flexible system in the school. Two primary four children come to me for reading because they are high achievers.

Is this not difficult to organise?

Not really, if you plan well. In maths I am working from three textbooks - Heinemann five, six and seven, whereas in my last school in Glasgow I might have worked from two.

Children here are used to working on their own, so I can readily teach one group while the others are busy with their own activities.

Presumably you don't have so many groups for the rest of the curriculum?

No. For instance, in environmental studies I can have them all working together, though at different strands. I obviously have higher expectations of the older ones, especially when they are doing independent work. I also use differentiated worksheets at times.

How is the teaching of French going?

I'm just completing my training and will be teaching an hour per week from October. The primary seven pupils have done some conversational French before, but now we'll be moving into reading and writing as well. I think my infant experience will serve me in good stead, because this is another case of more or less starting from scratch with many of the children.

How long have you been a teacher?

Twelve years, the past six at Auchinloch. I taught in Drumchapel before that. My husband and I wanted to move to Kirkintilloch because I was keen to try a small school with a country ethos and the feeling of being an integral part of the community.

How do you feel about the move from the infant end to the top end?

It suits me very well. In fact, I felt I was ready for that. When I was at college, I specialised in working with older pupils.

What do you like most about teaching as a job?

Perhaps not typically, one of the things I enjoy most is the organising and planning. If you are going to practise differentiation, you have to be well prepared.

How do you feel about the amount of testing which teachers have to do?

It worries me just a little, further down the school. But it doesn't influence the way I approach teaching.

After all, the five-14 curriculum and our own school and council policies define the areas that have to be taught, and you're not expected to present the children for testing till they're ready.

Don't you feel under pressure from parents?

No. We talk freely with them about their children's progress, nobody feels inhibited and they realise just how well we know every pupil. There is respect all round. I know where I'm going and I have no worries.

Does a school like this present disciplinary problems?

Not if you lay down your standards from the start. The first pupils I taught here are now in primary seven. That's a good feeling. I can relate to them all the more. They understand I can take a joke but no nonsense.

They're good children, they know what we expect, they know their parents would support us, if need be.

Do you still get as much satisfaction as you did 12 years ago?

Absolutely. There's nothing quite like hearing them saying things like: ''Oh, so that's how it works'' or ''Oh, miss, I can do it now''. That makes it worthwhile.

I'll miss the infants in some ways. The ultimate joy is to see how the very young ones, who come to you as raw material, develop over that first year.

They'll no doubt miss you too?

So they tell me. Some of them stop me in the corridor sometimes and say: ''We love you, Mrs Gold. We miss you.''

And they can be so innocently funny at that age. One day, when I was wearing a red skirt and red patent shoes, one of them said to me, ''You look like a princess today, miss''.

View from the Bridge

n Janie McManus has been head of Auchinloch Primary for 18 months, having previously been senior teacher at Condorrat Primary. ''I knew as soon as I walked in the front door on my initial visit that this was the place for me,'' she says.

During her short tenure the roll has risen from 41 to 59. ''Our reputation is high and many parents value a small school. We attract placing requests from Glasgow, in particular from Robroyston, which is not too far away.

She doesn't see the structure of the classes covering primary one/two, primary three/four and primary five/six/seven as a problem. ''Every class in every school is a composite, with children learning at different levels.

''Parents and the community are supportive. When we have an event, shops always make donations. Our school board and parent teacher association are active. Everybody pulls together to our benefit. That is how it tends to work in a small community.

''Being in charge of the school budget helps a lot. I can buy in cover when a teacher is out of school, though I like to teach when I can. I don't find it hard to make ends meet. We are lucky to have a teacher who is musical, but we bring in a specialist art teacher.''

Auchinloch now has the entire five-14 curriculum in place and offers French in the upper school. ''We also have extra-curricular activities,'' McManus says. ''We offer recorder, keyboard, football, netball and computing. The children are diligent, which is a feature of rural schools. They wear uniform and their attendance is excellent.''