Crusaders against closure

16th May 1997 at 01:00
Glasgow's former powerhouse of educational endeavour, Bath Street, had a crisp ring to the name, a snappiness that conjured up a dynamism that in practice flickered now and again. Its successor, Charing Cross Complex, sounds like some kind of obscure neurological disorder, the kind of title that cries out to be shortened for reasons of both sanity and brevity. It should come as no surprise then that clients have taken to pruning it to C3. There is something much more satisfying about that. It rolls around the tongue, and for me conjures up pictures of cutaway models that display their most intimate parts.

Whoever thought up C3 was more prescient than heshe imagined. I read recently that in Pentagonese, a vernacular rather than a linguistic ambience, C3 means control, command and communication. I think at that point I must leave it to the individual components of this remarkable descriptive coincidence, particularly when articulated to its managerial implications. Glasgow, with its flair for innovation, has recently added another C to its armament - consultation.

I have been involved in a consultation exercise myself within the past few weeks. Coming on top of losing an invaluable member of staff, the demise of the Family Education Support Partnership (see this column passim) I suspected for a few moments that someone up there was trying to pile Pelion on my Ossa, for a consultation exercise at this time in the session, and in my managerially fragile condition, was just about the last thing I either needed or wanted.

I have less than fragrant memories of Adapting to Change, the last such exercise I engaged in, which showed clearly the lengths to which people who are prepared neither to adapt nor to change, will go. I was prepared to shrink from this one if I could. No chance. The proposal was to relocate the local nursery, a purpose-built facility, either into my school, or into the neighbouring one.

Well, that was the proposal. Senior management is adept now at the format of consultation documents. They say little beyond the bare setting out of facts and of proposals that, in the semi-permanent ongoing rationalisation of educational provision in our fair city are inevitably faced with implacable opposition. Parents too are now adept at devising reasons why rationalisation proposals of this kind should be rejected root and branch, and it was not long before the exercise of opposition began to resemble a crusade. Crusaders cannot be made out of conscripts. Relocation's opponents have been, to a person, dedicated crusaders.

As the realisation of what the consequences of closure were starting to dawn among the nursery's parents, and my own parents, I came upon, rather unnervingly, a filmic comparison to our situation. Raise the Banner was made in 1980, and tells the story of Oda, a nisei, who struggles to survive when he learns that his house is to be demolished. The title comes from a Japanese aphorism. Raise a banner and you will come out on top. Parents have raised their banner, and the motto is, don't just do something, sit there. They are crusading because they don't want the education of their children disturbed.

Parents have made this clear, in private and pub-licly at the consultation meeting with a senior education officer who in the course of his Easterhouse via dolorosa handled skilfully, courteously and good humouredly the questions, rhetorical and otherwise, of a 100 per cent oppositional audience as he harvested its opinions. Meetings like these bring a new meaning to being on a hiding to nothing. They also bring home to our community's decision-makers in the City Chambers the value of local democracy, the reminder that it is a heady business, and the need to add another C to their deliberations - compassion.

Deprived areas need every facility they can get, and what they have, should be expanded, not reduced. An education committee decision at the time of writing is awaited.

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