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Glasgow threat to last all-girl school

Glasgow's ruling Labour group has stuck to its plans for reducing the number of secondaries in the city from 38 to 28 or 29 "strategically placed" schools by 2002 (first revealed in The TES Scotland on September 5). The timetable for consultation on specific schools was endorsed by the education committee on Tuesday.

The pill was sweetened by confirmation of a Pounds 12 million grant from the Government towards refurbishing and upgrading the remaining schools. The total capital cost of a programme aimed at revitalising comprehensive education is put at Pounds 71 million, including Pounds 15 million for new technology. The city hopes to make up the difference from the private sector, the European Investment Bank and up to Pounds 10 million released by closures.

The most contentious proposals affect the Roman Catholic sector. Notre Dame High, the only all-girls state comprehensive in Scotland, would go coeducational and move into North Kelvinside Secondary which is poised to merge with Clevden Secondary. The plans also envisage St Margaret Mary's Catholic Secondary in Castlemilk sharing a site with Castlemilk High but remaining separate.

Consultations will take place on seven secondaries with a deadline of January 28. They are St Augustine's, St Leonard's, St Gerard's, John Street, Garthamlock, North Kelvinside, and Victoria Drive.

There are to be "informal consultations" on the Notre Dame and Castlemilk proposals as well as on a new school to replace Woodside Secondary and Hillhead High and a new school combining Penilee and Crookston Castle secondaries. Surviving schools would be allowed to develop specialisms, backed up for the first time by significant sums of money.

"The council for the first time is making a clear commitment to pupils who are directly affected by their school closing," a statement said. "We believe that they will have better opportunities at one of the remaining schools in the city. They will have a high priority in a placement request to any school within the city and, consequently, if their journey is more than two miles away, they will receive free travel - a bus pass or train pass or a school bus to their chosen school."

If the changes survive parental protest and the politicians remain firm, the number of surplus secondary places will be cut from 19,422 to around 6, 000.A ballot on opting out at St Gerard's is set to delay the process in Govan.

Ian McCalman, national president of the Educational Institute of Scotland, who teaches in Glasgow, said the union was in "constructive dialogue" with the council's leadership. The EIS is likely to be more exercised by the effects on the principle of comprehensive education than by the closures programme, in line with its new policy of "education not buildings".

* The Government's aid package will benefit seven other councils in a final tranche of the extra Pounds 200 million for Scottish education announced in the Chancellor's July Budget.

The remaining Pounds 3 million out of the Pounds 15 million earmarked by the Scottish Office for "spend to save" initiatives will go to East Ayrshire (Pounds 643,000), Aberdeen (Pounds 525,000), South Lanarkshire (Pounds 485,000), Dundee (Pounds 460,000), Argyll (Pounds 440,000), West Lothian (Pounds 360,000), and the Western Isles (Pounds 87,000).

East Ayrshire was deciding this week on a number of proposals including a further look at the 192-pupil St Conval's High, which may be linked with St Joseph's Academy in Kilmarnock or Cumnock Academy. The council also wants to relocate two primaries and a nursery.

Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, says the extra cash is a recognition that councils with significant overcapacity in their schools need investment to help implement their plans.

But the Scottish Office makes clear that the money does not mean the Secretary of State is committed to support all closure proposals which might come to him for approval from the eight councils.

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