Page last updated at 11:31 GMT, Monday, 23 March 2009

Alternative school set to reopen

Kilquhanity House
Kilquhanity House has been closed as a school for 12 years

An alternative school in southern Scotland which was closed more than a decade ago after being criticised by education inspectors is set to reopen.

Kilquhanity House near Castle Douglas has been given the go-ahead to become a day school for 15 pupils.

Former pupil Andrew Pyle is to be the school's new head teacher.

He said the children would be offered a creative and flexible education where they could choose what to study and homework and exams would be optional.

Kilquhanity was founded in 1940 by John Aitkenhead to provide an alternative to ordinary schools.

If Kilquhanity can offer you anything it is the ability to adapt to the uncertain futures that our children probably are going to face
Andrew Pyle
Head teacher

He felt they delivered an education which was too authoritarian and too utilitarian.

At Kilquhanity youngsters were expected to fill their time but could opt to play the piano all day or explore the woods.

Rules were decided by a weekly council meeting in which the youngest child had the same voting rights as the head teacher.

Many youngsters went on to become gifted artists, designers or writers.

Mr Aitkenhead closed the school in 1997 after a visit from inspectors who criticised education standards and the state of the buildings.

He died a year later.

Now the £1,200-a-term school hopes to reopen with help from a Japanese education body under a new head teacher.

Mr Pyle said he thought the time was right for the return of what Kilquhanity had to offer.

Conventional education

"I think, more than ever, this sort of education is important," he said.

"If Kilquhanity can offer you anything it is the ability to adapt to the uncertain futures that our children probably are going to face.

"I am not entirely sure that conventional education and state education is going to do that any more."

However, Mr Pyle said staff and pupils had no plans to resurrect the practice of skinny dipping in the river, a pastime which attracted newspaper headlines.

He added that much of what had been written about the school in the past was untrue.

"It was very, very easy to make stories up about Kilquhanity very few of which had any basis at all," he said.

"It suffered hugely towards the end of its life from allegations that really were unfounded."

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