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Anger over closure of school founded by tycoon

Council and school at loggerheads as students learn they will all have to leave by Easter

Anger over closure of school founded by tycoon

A school launched by one of Scotland's richest men is to close, amid a funding dispute with a local authority.

Parents whose of students at attend Newlands Junior College, which was founded by tycoon Jim McColl, have been told by NJC that the council has not made the resources available to “put it on a permanent footing”, The Herald reported today.

However, a spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council, which is drawing up plans to reintegrate the pupils into the state sector, said: “The sudden closure of NJC must be extremely upsetting for the young people and their families. We are appalled by the way the whole situation has been handled by the Newlands management team. Letters announcing the closure have been sent out to families out of the blue and without any input from the council.”

She added: “There’s no doubt that these young people have been failed by Newlands. We will be arranging meetings with every young person and their families next week to discuss their career aspirations and work with them to put in place a programme of support.”

In response, Mr McColl said of NJC: “Every year we have had a 100 per cent success rate in getting pupils into work or college. We have had over 130 people who have benefitted.”

He added: “For Glasgow City Council to say what they have said in their statement to you is appalling. They have known about this and have buried their heads.

“It was a risk to try and change the system by showing how it could be successful, but the feedback I got is they [the council] didn’t have the resources to do this.”

Mr McColl is chief executive and chair of engineering giant Clyde Blowers and a member of first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s council of economic advisers.

In 2014, he and his company set up NJC, which caters for 14- to 16-year-olds who have become “disengaged” from education, on a five-year “demonstration basis”, with the plan to use a mix of public and private money.

Pupils are offered a range of support, including vocational courses and advice on personal development.

The Scottish government, which has been carrying out an assessment of the NJC approach, provided NJC with operating costs worth £345,000 in 2017-18 and £363,000 the following year, as well as a £500,000 capital grant towards establishing the college.

Glasgow City Council has given the school £100,000 a year for the past five years and has over 20 pupils at the college.

Mr McColl had hoped to establish more establishments like NJC in Glasgow and across Scotland.

In a letter to parents yesterday, NJC depute principal Philip Graham wrote that the college is to close:

“It [NJC] has proved to be an outstanding success. However, its demonstration phase is now approaching an end and unfortunately Glasgow City Council have advised us that the resources are not available to put it on a permanent footing. It is with great regret that we write to inform you that NJC will therefore be closing.”

It added: “Right up until this week it was hoped that funding could be obtained to continue the project. It has become clear today that there is no possibility of continued government funding.”

The letter, which was also signed by Alex Stewart, the deputy chair of NJC’s board of trustee, contained an additional note which made clear that the last young people will “leave at Easter”.

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