Backlash against sit-in parents?

24th April 2009 at 01:00
Glasgow City Council rocked by supporters protesting against two primary closures

No sooner had the two-week occupation at Wyndford and St Gregory's primaries in Glasgow ended than others began - this time a rooftop protest at Our Lady of Assumption Primary in Ruchill and a lock-in at Victoria Primary in Govanhill, where parents chained themselves to railings.

Closing schools in Glasgow has been a baptism of fire for the new education convener, Jonathan Findlay, a solicitor by training.

The dilemma facing him and council officials is whether to take pre- emptive action to prevent future similar protests.

End-of-term shows at the schools earmarked for closure now hang in the balance. The occupations of Wyndford and St Gregory's happened on the final day before the spring holidays, when some parents and supporters attending shows hid on the premises.

Officials fear the same thing could happen again.

The relationship between council and parents is at an all-time low. Parents are angry that, despite overwhelming opposition to closures (7,000 of the 7,200 responses opposed plans), the ruling Labour group has voted in favour; education officials have been angered by parents who allegedly said the children's education would not be affected if they could not attend for the final term, arguing: "What can you learn in seven weeks?"

"Nobody would pretend that closing schools is popular," says Councillor Findlay.

But he insists that the plans are based on sound educational advice: that the schools are in too bad a physical condition to be sustainable, and that falling rolls have led to triple composite classes which are "unacceptable" on learning and teaching grounds.

"It is no longer possible to have a primary school in every community, far less a denominational and a non-denominational primary. The days of that are well and truly over," he adds.

"It is important that we invest the money we have in young people's education and not on crumbling and under-occupied school buildings."

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