Glasgow bids to sweeten closures

29th March 1996 at 00:00
Glasgow Council is planning talks with the Scottish Office over a "new for old" scheme to soften the blow of school closures. Under the proposals communities affected by the closure of two or more schools will be offered a new school in return.

Malcolm Green, Glasgow's education convener, told a conference on funding organised by the Educational Institute of Scotland: "This is a major enterprise that we need to discuss and agree with the Scottish Office over the next year."

Up to 21 schools in Glasgow are earmarked for closure this year and more closures will follow to remove an estimated 54,500 surplus places.

"School closures are the key to getting the Government to recognise the system is run efficiently, before we can convince them we need more money," Dr Green said. "I think it will be a great deal easier to persuade communities to sacrifice two existing schools if we can offer them a new one in return."

Dr Green also told the conference, organised to follow up on the success of last month's 40,000-strong protest march through Edinburgh, that Strathclyde's policy of providing extra staffing to schools in areas of priority treatment would have to be reviewed following cuts in the city's education budget of 3.9 per cent.

The scheme will cost Glasgow pound;6 million this year because 36 of 39 secondary schools are eligible.

Of the four main political parties represented at the conference, only the Liberal Democrats gave a firm promise of extra cash. Sir Robert Smith, an Aberdeenshire councillor, said the party's policy of 1p extra on income tax would raise pound;150 million for Scottish education, much of it earmarked for nursery provision.

Helen Liddell, Labour's Scottish education spokeswoman, pledged a decade of investment, but declined to give details. The party would begin wide consultations with local authorities but she did not have a "magic wand" to "magic up" extra resources.

Mrs Liddell said that pound;50 million already in the system from the assisted places scheme and nursery vouchers could be better deployed.

Phil Gallie, Conservative vice-chairman in Scotland, insisted his party had invested in education, raised standards and widened parental choice.

The SNP's Andrew Welsh, asked why Scotland, which was "the 23rd wealthiest country in the world", was having to make education cuts at all.

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