A committee of leading councillors will produce initial recommendations by December that could redefine the concept of comprehensive schools. More specialisation within secondaries is anticipated.
In a frank assessment, officials admit the popular perception of an impoverished city, with low-achieving schools, is leading to a crisis of confidence and accelerating the drift of parents to independent schools or schools outwith the city's boundaries. Nearly 600 pupils who attend Glasgow primaries do not go on to city secondaries.
Without firm action, the education committee was told yesterday (Thursday) Glasgow could end up "with a few reasonably successful six-year comprehensive schools, attracting pupils by placing request, but with a majority of small junior secondary-type schools serving mainly pupils from areas of priority treatment. Such a situation does not augur well for the future well-being of the city."
Malcolm Green, the committee's convener, who is expected to chair the review, said: "The stress is on raising standards rather than saving money. We are accepting that standards are lower than they should be, that something has to be done about it, and we have got to do something about it within present costs."
The long-term plan is to invest in areas of education that matter. Simply closing schools and removing money would not raise standards, Dr Green said.
The two major issues of school closures and tackling low achievement are linked, officials say. City schools are only 60 per cent occupied, a figure council leaders would like to push towards 80 per cent. That would mean a substantial cut in the number of schools, especially primaries.
The report warns: "The result is that too much of the resources for education are used up on property, and on uneconomic deployment of staff, and not enough on service delivery. This, coupled to severe levels of deprivation and poverty, exacerbated by poor employment prospects, has led to an overall picture of poor school achievement, although any proper value-added assessment would indicate that most Glasgow schools, thanks to dedicated teachers, achieve at least as well as any other school in the country."
Officials argue comprehensive schools have not failed Glasgow. It is the city's "general malaise" that has failed schools. Schools are capable of delivering high levels of success if they have the social and educational mix.
With overall cuts of 6 per cent predicted for the city next year, officials contend that spending on education has to be protected. A "sensible" programme of school rationalisation, "with no preconceived closure list", will help to redirect resources to target areas, it is argued.
Intriguingly, the review group of councillors will examine different structures of schooling, including 5-14 and 14-18 schools. A second option would be 4-11 and 11-18 schools with more specialisms in secondaries. Other options for secondaries are city-wide entry, ending catchment areas, and giving parents a choice of up to three schools.
Dr Green commented: "We want in fact to widen choice for many people who at present do not have it and make the system more comprehensive and successful and attract parents who might want to leave it."
Organisational and curricular change within the present system would also improve attainment, officials say. The council wants schools to adopt "planned increments each year towards national targets".