Dewar on spot over Kelvindale schools

20th March 1998 at 00:00
Parents fighting Glasgow's school closures programme are confident the Secretary of State will inevitably be drawn into the conflict.

Donald Dewar is the MP for the Kelvindale area which is part of the disputed territory in the enforced marriage between Cleveden and North Kelvinside secondaries. As Scottish Secretary, Mr Dewar is also the final arbiter in certain categories of school closure, making his position particularly sensitive.

Campaigners who claim the planned amalgamation of the two schools would place 1,400 pupils on a grossly cramped site say Mr Dewar has failed to represent their cause and cancelled surgeries without making other arrangements.

"We are in effect being disenfranchised because our MP is the Secretary of State," one parent activist said.

Glasgow plans to build a 38-classroom extension on the Cleveden site to accommodate the North Kelvinside pupils, with recreational facilities at the nearby Kirklee playing-fields. But the Cleveden Parents' Action Group says this would infringe national regulations and leave a shortfall of 0.3 hectares on the school site and 1.04 hectares on the playing-fields.

Douglas MacIntyre, chairman of the action group, says it is taking legal advice on seeking a judicial review. But the parental view is not unanimous and Tony Crowe, chairman of Cleveden Secondary's school board, confirmed its preference for a new building alongside the playing-fields at Kirklee.

Pressure for a new building was "just flannel", Mr MacIntyre said. "The school board and the headteacher have been enticed by the prospect of a new building. But I believe they will soon be convinced this is just not practical because the other sites are not large enough either. The council is going through the motions of looking at alternative locations but it's just a sham because anyone with half an eye can see none of them is a starter. They just want us to shut up."

Mr Crowe, however, says the board's main concern is that the extension work at Cleveden "would turn the school into a building site for two to three years". He warned that there was a serious risk parents would simply remove their children in protest, to other city schools or to other education authorities.

The action group is adamant that the status quo is the only option. Mr Crowe says the board is prepared to consider alternatives. The case against the Cleveden site is no longer as strong as it was, Mr Crowe suggests, and the council has bought the Kirklee grounds.

The issue has cast light on the hitherto obscure School Premises (General Requirements and Standards) (Scotland) Regulations 1967, as amended in 1973 and 1979. These stipulate minimum specifications for school buildings laying down, for example, that a 1000-pupil secondary requires six acres with a quarter acre for every 100 additional pupils.

But Glasgow believes these acreages are only recommendations, and that the Cleveden site encompasses 14.5 acres against the stipulated 13.5. Ken Corsar, the city's director of education, wrote to Jamie Allan, one of the members of the Cleveden action group, that the mandatory nature of the regulations "has been rescinded".

The Scottish Office told Mr Allan the regulations "remain in force", although that may amount to the same thing.

Either way, the issue may end up on Mr Dewar's desk since the Secretary of State has to be "satisfied that it is impracticable or would be unreasonable to apply the standards prescribed in this regulation to a particular school building". In such cases, "the area of the site for that school building shall be such as may be approved".

On playing-fields, the regulations say every secondary school "shall have available to it playing-fields". This means they do not have to be on the site of the school and similar discretion appears open to the council.

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