Axe over schools with low rolls

23rd February 1996 at 00:00
Secondary schools with fewer than 700 pupils may no longer be viable, Malcolm Green, Glasgow City Council's education convener, has predicted. Six secondaries were targeted for closure by the council's ruling Labour group on Monday, three more than originally planned.

Dr Green argues that one of the factors is the Higher Still curriculum to be introduced in 1998. Previously it was thought that rolls of 500 could be feasible.

Dundee, which plans to close two secondaries, also prefers 700 as the optimum size, claiming pupils are disadvantaged in smaller schools.

The Labour group in Glasgow has already announced proposals to cut services by pound;43 million and increase council tax by about 36 per cent, amid signs that the crisis facing local government funding is beginning to rouse Government ministers to an intensive round of explanation and justification.

The axe fell harder than expected on education with estimated savings of pound;12.2 million needed to enable Glasgow to stay within Scottish Office capping limits. Dr Green told The TES Scotland that no education staff would be made compulsorily redundant, although the council is looking for 2,000 job losses across the board.

An angry demonstration at the City Chambers by more than 200 parents, children and trade unionists failed to halt the cuts. Protesters occupied the council chamber and managed to postpone the Labour group budget meeting for an hour.

Councillors eventually decided to close 16 primary schools and six secondary schools by the end of June, saving about pound;3.2 million; two outdoor education centres, Castle Toward and Achnamara in Argyll, saving pound;244,000; and 12 community education centres, saving pound;720,000.

Delegated budgets to schools will be cut by as much as 5 per cent, and previously voluntary payments of 10p per pre-school session for all families will be compulsory, with families not on income support paying 60p and children from outwith the council area pound;5 each.

The planned school closures will not, however, make major inroads into the city's overcapacity. Glasgow primaries have 32,000 surplus places and secondaries an estimated 22,500. The closures will take out 5,000 places.

Dr Green said that as schools closed an expanded transport service would be needed to bus children to schools farther afield.

The first three secondaries earmarked for closure are John Bosco, St Gerard's and Garthamlock, each with rolls of 300-400. Details of the primary schools threatened with the axe and three other secondaries will not be confirmed until early next month.

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