The Scottish Office is prepared to underwrite Glasgow's ambitious privately funded secondary school investment programme to the extent of pound;14 million a year for 25 years, The TES Scotland has learnt.
This would meet the "mortgage" costs arising out of the pound;100 million in public-private partnership (PPP) funding which will be used for new secondary schools, refurbishing every remaining secondary and re-equipping schools with state-of-the-art technology.
The annual repayments are the equivalent of loan charges under conventional public borrowing arrangements and the Government is anxious to ensure PPP does not cripple authorities financially. The Treasury has approved the Glasgow reorganisation programme in principle as one of 50 "significant" projects throughout the UK.
Glasgow City Council approved the programme on Tuesday, including the closure of six secondaries in June (seven if, as expected, the Secretary of State, rejects a vote by parents at St Gerard's Secondary to opt out). The plan includes new buildings to replace the combined Penilee-Crookston Castle secondaries and an integrated Hillhead High-Woodside Secondary.
This will ultimately reduce Glasgow's secondaries from 38 to 29, with the future of Roman Catholic education on the south side of the city still unresolved.
The closure of the first group of six schools will release pound;6.9 million in revenue savings by 2002. This will be ploughed into improved teacher staffing standards in all secondaries, better staffing levels in schools serving rundown areas and increased funding on primary as well as secondary school supplies.
Ken Corsar, the city's director of education, pledged that the money would not fall victim to budget cuts since these impact mainly on non-school educational expenditure.
But the administration was warned by Chris Mason, leader of the Liberal Democrats, not to overlook the importance of winning parental support for the policy in all schools, not just those affected by closures. "I would say it effectively means winning back parents' confidence," Dr Mason said.
He fears parents' faith in Glasgow's school system may collapse in the three to four years it will take to implement the programme.
Malcolm Green, the council's education convener, said it was important to "bind up wounds and win back confidence. The first thing is to demonstrate that we will stick by our promises on reinvestment, showing that this is not about moving money around but about raising achievement."
Mr Corsar acknowledged that transport is parents' chief concern. He is in talks with Strathclyde Passenger Transport Executive on new bus routes. Parents have already been promised help if their homes are two miles from school instead of the national three-mile limit. They will also get a high priority for placing requests if their children attend one of the closed schools.
Opposition councillors gave a general welcome to the administration's "political courage" in pushing through the closures, although they had reservations on the details. Chief among these was the merger of North Kelvinside Secondary with Cleveden Secondary on the Cleveden's cramped site.
The first-year intake from seven primaries will transfer to the North Kelvinside campus for two years or until building work is completed. This "segregation" is strongly opposed by the Educational Institute of Scotland. Mr Corsar admitted the position was "less than ideal".
Birmingham's example, page 17