Gillian Coulter

Gillian Coulter

While the children could see each other – and even touch fingers through the mesh – they could not play together at break times, even though most lived in the same communities.

Now, thanks to a new initiative to develop school playgrounds, the fence dividing Loch and St Anthony’s primaries in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, has been taken down.

As a result, the pupils share playtime in the enlarged outdoor space, allowing both schools to explore themes of anti-sectarianism in a practical way.

Gillian Coulter, quality improvement officer for South Lanarkshire Council, said the project, which had attracted funding of £15,000 from charity Grounds for Learning, has transformed the schools.

“Just taking the fence down had the biggest impact because there is no longer a physical barrier,” she said.

“It has been a great success because it has changed the mindset and that has been very positive. Before, the fence marked the two different territories, but now there is no territorialism.”

Sheena McNeill, headteacher at Loch Primary, said the schools had always enjoyed a good working relationship, but the playground development had taken it to a new level.

“At first we envisaged timetabling separate days for the schools, but we realised the pupils were enjoying working and playing together,” she said.

“It was therefore decided to encourage both staff and pupils to share the area together.”

Rita McLaughlin, headteacher of St Anthony’s Primary School, said staff were now seeking further opportunities to work together across the curriculum.

“We have been successful in bridging the sectarian gap while at the same time retaining our individual identities,” Ms McLaughlin said. The pupils enjoy that they are now having the opportunity to play with their friends both at home and in school.”

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