Catholic opt-out set to hit Glasgow

In a move that could lead to Glasgow losing more pupils to a neighbouring authority, Roman Catholic parents in East Dunbartonshire are calling on the council to convert the site of St Andrew's College into a Catholic secondary school. The college plans to merge with Glasgow University.

A survey of Catholic parents by the school boards of St Andrew's primary in Bearsden and St Joseph's primary in Milngavie found "overwhelming support". The boards say their schools serve the only major residential area in East Dunbartonshire without a Catholic secondary.

Opposition has already come from the Educational Institute of Scotland which fears that teachers who would be surplus at other schools might be rejected by the Catholic Church, which has power of approval over appointments in its schools. Cardinal Thomas Winning is said to believe there is "a good case" for the proposal.

Following local government reform, the two schools continue to be officially associated with John Paul Academy in the Summerston area of Glasgow. In 1995, John Paul received 20 out of a combined primary 7 roll of 72 children. This year only one pupil from a possible 80 opted to go.

Parents prefer the non-denominational Douglas, Bearsden and Boclair academies, a desertion from the faith not confined to the middle-class areas of East Dunbartonshire and which regularly exercises the annual conference of Catholic headteachers.

In their submission to the council's education committee, the two school boards highlight what they describe as a "unique opportunity" if the merger of St Andrew's College and Glasgow University results in the college buildings becoming available. This would provide a Catholic school "at relatively low cost" and retain the site as a community facility.

This year, the majority of the 557 secondary placing requests in East Dunbartonshire were from Glasgow, and the creation of a new Catholic school could increase the exodus.

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