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Glasgow parents disfranchised by closure

Glasgow's plans to create a new school out of Cleveden and North Kelvinside secondaries have been given a further twist. Cleveden parents have been told they cannot request an opt-out ballot until the autumn because the school has no board.

Eighty-six parents, just over the minimum figure required to requisition an opt-out vote, wrote to Tony Crowe, chairman of the Cleveden school board, asking him to initiate the process by notifying the city's education department and the Scottish Secretary.

A spokesperson for the education department said that because the council was in the midst of creating a new school the board has been disestablished and the ballot request is therefore in limbo.

"The board is an unelected interim group of parents at the moment with no powers to conduct a ballot," she said. "When the school restarts in August elections will be held and the parents, if they wish, can make representations to the new board."

Boards can instigate ballots at their own hand. Normally, they are also required to conduct one where 30 parents of pupils at the school demand it - provided they represent at least 10 per cent of the parent electoral roll.

Scottish Office ministers have already signalled their intention to reject votes in favour of opting out from education authority control, and the Cleveden move is therefore a symbolic demonstration of dissatisfaction.

In their letter, the parents state that they have lost confidence in the city council and its education department. The absorption of North Kelvinside is part of an ambitious Pounds 136 million blueprint to create secondary superschools which the council hopes will help repair its battered educational image in the millennium.

The combination of the two schools on the Cleveden site, creating one of 1,400 pupils, will require extensive work and some of the pupils will continue to be located in North Kelvinside until it is finished.

There have been criticisms of the split-site arrangements by the unions, and parents have safety worries that Cleveden will become a "building site" over the next couple of years.

But there are also splits within the parent body, with some parents accusing the school board of failing to be sufficiently hostile to the council's plans.

Glasgow meanwhile has announced what it believes is the first fruits of its policy. It is to allocate Pounds 80 per pupil from a closing school to secondaries which receive them.

And in a Pounds 5 million package, schools will receive Pounds 10 per secondary pupil and Pounds 6 per primary or special pupil in new technology investment. Primary and special schools will receive an additional Pounds 40 per pupil and secondaries Pounds 50 (Pounds 55 for secondary schools in regeneration areas), under the Government's new deal money.

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