Five stations of Glasgow's closure cross;Comment;Opinion

27th March 1998 at 00:00
The Easter vacation in Glasgow provides the chance of a breathing space in the sometimes extraordinary bitterness that the city's Closure Wars have engendered. For those children who face a change of school, fear of the unknown is perhaps the most difficult hurdle to overcome, particularly at such a sensitive stage in their life. Applying Roosevelt's pithy little apothegm that they have nothing to fear but fear itself is cold comfort and a little insulting.

In their world, tribal enmities are more real than the marbled, disengaged and sometimes virtual world that politicians are enthusiastic to face up to and expand on. At a consultation meeting in my own area, a parent said it all about the proposed move to another area. "They don't want us, and we don't want them." There's a lot of resentment (and truth) out there. While the Easter break may come at a strategic time for all parties either to review the big picture, quietly celebrate victory or ask in despair where they go from here, there is another deeper reason why it is an appropriate time reculer pour mieux sauter.

The Christian message of Easter stresses death and coming to life again. For many parents whose children have been caught up in the closure programme, and this does not necessarily mean the most vociferous jumping-on-chair-at-meetings parents, the months from January have been a via crucis, and in many ways a small death of something in their community and of their aspirations for their children. They can only hope now that decisions made over their heads and over which they have no control promise a better education come to life for their children.

At the same consultation meeting, another speaker made the point that closing our secondary school meant, as he put it, that "the stuffing was being knocked out of our community". In what could only be described as a maelstrom of hostility and antagonism, those quiet reflective words conveyed more meaning about the proposed closure than most of the belligerence. For the community as a whole, the experience has been both traumatic and charged with emotion.

Elisabeth Kubler Ross, in her book On Death and Dying, outlined five emotional stages in the process of dying - denial, anger, bargaining, depression and finally acceptance. From as detached a position as it has been possible to take, applying her stages - even though they overlap in places - has shown, at least to me, the psychological and emotional stress that the community has been undergoing.

Denial was clear, mixed with assessment. "They can't mean us"; "Look at our record, look at what our school does for our children." Saddest of all: "It must be a mistake." The fact that it was not, led to anger, loud explosive anger thoroughly reported, that made the consultation meeting a safety-valve for community frustrations. People were angry with the officials who run education, with elected members, with the system, with national politicians.

When the opportunities came, anger had to be put aside in order to bargain with politicians and officials for continued existence, and when this failed a kind of depression set in, as if in those prophetic words, the stuffing had been knocked out. The stage that has not been reached so far is acceptance of the situation as it is. I doubt if that stage will be reached before the local comprehensive is razed to the ground. And then it will only be acceptance by default.

My community's children are resilient. They have to be to bounce back from the body blows they have received recently. According to Brian Boyd of the Quality in Education Centre at Strathclyde University, pupils have identified some criteria for effective teaching - a sense of order and a working climate, approachable teachers, a sense of humour and equity and fairness. Let's hope the ones coming in from the closure cold will get all that. They need them and deserve them.

Joseph Kelly is headteacher of a Glasgow Catholic primary.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today