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Director goes online to take closures flak

Glasgow's educational leaders are taking a novel approach to public consultation over the closure of primary schools.

In what is thought to be the first initiative of its kind in Scotland, Steven Purcell, convener of the city council's education committee, and Ronnie O'Connor, director of education, are going online for three hours next Monday for an "interactive discussion".

This will not replace the traditional public meetings: 39 are scheduled for November.

Mr Purcell hopes that e-consultation will help with the subsequent public meetings. The council also hopes the chairman and director will be able to give parents the answers they need to make informed submissions.

The council hopes that parents without internet access at home will use lifelong learning centres and libraries.

Glasgow plans to invest pound;55 million over the next two years to build 10 new primaries with pre-five facilities, accompanied by the closure and amalgamation of 25 primaries, the amalgamation and closure of 12 pre-five centres and the relocation of two special needs schools.

Unlike Glasgow's revamp of secondary schools, the programme will not be funded through a public private partnership (PPP). Instead it will use a complex package with pound;22 million borrowed against savings from rationalisation, pound;23 million from the council's capital fund and pound;10 million from the sale of surplus land.

Mr Purcell says the online discussion will be easy to navigate through the city council's website on consultationtalk.

Meanwhile along the M8, Edinburgh is to begin consultations on a major overhaul of secondary school catchment areas. This will involve 19 of the city's 23 secondaries, some of which have been affected by overcrowding while others are suffering from population shifts. Consultations will begin in January and will take three years to complete.

Roy Jobson, director of education, points out this will be the first catchment review for three decades. Nearly 40 per cent of secondaries are above 100 per cent occupancy while four-fifths are above the Accounts Commission's guideline of 80 per cent occupancy.

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