Glasgow and Education Secretary at loggerheads

20th August 2010 at 01:00
First HMIE challenge to closure proposals leads to heated political controversy

Scotland's largest education authority has accused the Scottish Government of incompetence and acting unreasonably in its handling of a "call-in" notice to Glasgow over three schools it wants to close.

Maureen McKenna, Glasgow's executive director of education, wrote to Michael Kellet, the Government's deputy director for schools: people and places division, claiming his letter calling in Glasgow's plans to close two special schools and a primary, on the basis of HMIE advice, lacks detail and is therefore not a competent formal call-in notice.

She also said the Government's decision is "unreasonable" as ministers waited until the last day of the statutory six-week period to issue the call-in; failed to request further clarification; and failed to specify which statutory ground the Government claimed Glasgow had breached.

In a further salvo in the ongoing hostilities between Labour-controlled Glasgow and the SNP Government, Glasgow's education convener, Jean McFadden, has accused the SNP of taking "another cheap swipe at Glasgow" and the Education Secretary of political bias.

The announcement by Michael Russell this week that ministers wanted to review the council's proposals to close Stonedyke Primary, and St Aidan's and St Joan of Arc special schools marks the first "call in" on the basis of an "educational benefits statement" by the inspectorate since the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act came into law this year.

Mr Russell said: "In each of these three schools, education inspectors have raised concerns over Glasgow City Council's plans. These concerns are focused on how the education of the pupils will be improved in their new schools.

"In their official report into the plans, inspectors have called on Glasgow to provide more information. It is right and proper that we take the time to allow this information to be provided and considered before allowing the closure to go ahead.

Glasgow proposes to close Stonedyke Primary and transfer its pupils to Camstradden and Langfaulds primaries. But Stonedyke parents objected that attainment at Camstradden was poorer than their own school and HMIE flagged up a poor follow-through inspection of Camstradden in 2009.

It said: "Consideration should be given to delaying the proposal to enable sufficient improvement before Camstradden Primary can effectively support the transition of children from Stonedyke Primary School."

In the case of Glasgow's plans to close St Aidan's and St Joan of Arc's to create a new school in the building occupied by another special school, St Vincent's (Tollcross), HMIE called on Glasgow City Council to provide further detail about its plans to improve the facilities and resources in the new premises for the merged school.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Ministers have followed the procedures laid out in the new Act. Glasgow City Council should now focus on meeting the needs of the vulnerable children affected by these plans rather than querying a process that is set out in law. We look forward to receiving from Glasgow City Council the information that HMIE indicated would be required in order to take such closures forward and we suggest that providing that information timeously would be the best way of resolving the issue."

  • Original headline: Glasgow and Education Secretary at loggerheads over axeing schools

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