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Glasgow chases primary closures

GLASGOW'S ruling Labour group, almost certain to be returned after this week's council elections, plans to tackle half-empty primary schools with the same determination that saw the secondary sector reduced from 38 to 29 schools.

The move was confirmed by Malcolm Green, education convener in the city's previous administration. It follows an Accounts Commission report that fingered Glasgow as one of four councils where more than half of primary schools had surplus capacity of 40 per cent or more.

"The new council will have to raise the question at the very least," Dr Green told The TES Scotland. "It would be irresponsible not to do so in light of the figures."

Primary heads have been seeking indications that the scale of money ploughed in by the authority to modernise secondary schools will be available. Dr Green asks, however, if they would be prepared to pay the price of losing a third of their number, as the secondary sector did.

Maire Whitehead, past chairman of the primary heads' association in Glasgow, said heads would have no objection in principle but would insist on being involved in drawing up clear closure criteria.

The closure of nine Glasgow secondaries has led to a massive upgrading programme for the remaining schools, backed by pound;140 million from the Scottish Office through the Government's controversial public-private partnership. An extra pound;4.6 million was channelled into secondary classrooms this year.

Dr Green said some primaries were becoming "fragile". One enrolled just one pupil this session, while a number of schools had fewer than 100. The optimum design for city primaries is a roll of more than 400.

If occupancy levels were to be in line with secondaries, up to 80 primaries would be at risk. But officials forecast a loss of between 35 and 40 of the city's 202 primaries.

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