LEADING Glasgow education officials were due to meet the teaching unions this week to calm staffroom fears over the council's privately funded regeneration of the city's 29 secondary schools.
The unions claim that the public-private partnership (PPP) deal, worth pound;1.2 billion over the 30 years of the contract, will reduce classroom space and cut down on facilities for staff. The Educational Institute of Scotland says the plans could see seven secondaries lose their swimming pools, leading one principal PE teacher to warn that Glasgow would become "a city of drowners".
Ian McDonald, depute director responsible for the project, flatly denied the charges and said the council would decide, probably in early February, what mix of accommodation is required "bearing in mind the changing demands of the curriculum in the next century as well as the needs of the city".
The 3Ed consortium, currently the preferred bidder, is offering 11 completely new buildings which Mr McDonald agreed would not necessarily replicate existing accommodation. There would also be seven school extensions, the remaining 11 secondaries would be completely refurbished and every single classroom modernised. "But it will be for the council to determine the outcome to ensure we get best value," he said.
A main focus of EIS unrest is school swimming pools. Staff claim that 10 have disappeared as a result of school closures in recent years.
Mary Neil, a PE teacher at St Mungo's Academy, said staff were "upset, appalled and horrified" when they heard the pool might disappear. This would leave the PE department with three teaching spaces instead of four with the games hall used for exams seven or eight weeks in the year.
"The PPP proposals are supposed to be about progress," Ms Neil said, "and here we are knocking down swimming pools all over the city."
Hillhead High is due to acquire additional PE provision under the scheme, but a pool is not included. At the moment PE staff use the pool at their Berkeley Street campus, formerly Woodside Secondary, but this will be closed when building work is completed.
PE staff at All Saints Secondary were "totally surprised" to be told they were getting a new school, and even more surprised to discover that they would no longer have the use of their current pool, built in 1972. They have four "assured" indoor teaching areas; these will be reduced to three if the proposals go ahead.
Staff at nearby Smithycroft Secondary were also taken aback to find out that the school, built in the early seventies and the recipient of an architectural award, is to be replaced. They, too, are due to lose their swimming pool.
Mr McDonald said Glasgow was well supplied with pools but less so with all-weather pitches and games halls, which would be among the features of the new buildings. He added: "Whatever happens, we will ensure that swimming takes place."
"This is the most exciting educational project in Glasgow - ever," Mr McDonald said. "Some pound;200 million in capital investment will go into secondary schools over a period of 20 months, when the normal allocation for the whole of education was never more than pound;5 million a year." But he promised to listen to any concerns.