Ferguslie Park, Paisley

The challenges of providing Primary education to the children of the Ferguslie Park area of Paisley was the subject of a talk by Ian Fraser at a recent meeting of Largs Probus Club. Ian had been Head Teacher of Ferguslie Park Primary School from 1982 to 1990. He advised that the area was hard hit by the decline in traditional industries, particularly the closure of the car factory in Linwood in 1981, and Renfrewshire Council’s experiment in social engineering by putting families there with issues in relation to alcohol abuse, violent crime, and juvenile delinquency, with two-thirds of the families receiving some form of housing benefit.

Whilst poverty was rife, Ian saw education as the way out and used all his resources to turn the school round from being out of control with petty theft, poor attitude, foul language and violence to staff and pupils. He did this by always acting in the best interest of the children by introducing discipline with strict rules and clear outcomes should they be broken; a lot of new technology; school trips to museums and places of interest and food rewards with a food bank being established. This made being in school more attractive than staying at home and parents began to recognise that he was all for the children and fair. He sourced extra money and grants which enabled class sizes to be smaller and the provision of educational support for those pupils requiring it.

Ian advised that the teaching staff were excellent and able to cope with the many challenges facing them, with twenty-nine becoming Deputy or Head Teachers in the eight years he was there. Ian concluded by highlighting some of the successes including attendance at Parents’ Nights increasing from 30% to 80%; the winning of the School Curriculum Award and a visit from Prince Charles. Ian gave lots of anecdotes on life in the school which was riddled with humour and was well received by members. In his vote of thanks George Newlands thanked Ian for his inspirational talk on all the great things he had done for the children of Ferguslie.

The Club had recently held their AGM with Roddy Eunson being elected President, Ray Young Vice President, Iain Kerr Secretary and George Newlands Treasurer. Membership currently stands at 42 with the annual subscription set at £90. 

The Club will next meet in the Willowbank Hotel on Wednesday 13th March at 10am when Drew Cochrane will speak on Confessions of an Editor and then on 20th March for coffee and scones when members Bernie Rafferty, Douglas Coulter and John Riddell will speak for ten minutes on a subject of their choice.