Glasgow to revamp ailing primaries

29th August 2003 at 01:00
AFTER three years of prevarication, Glasgow is finally to launch into the politically unpalatable action of removing large chunks of its primary sector. In return, communities will be offered new, vibrant pre-12 schools in a something-for-something policy that avoids public private partnership (PPP) funding.

The city is refusing to put a figure on the number of dilapidated and half-empty primaries that will eventually go but 63 have rolls of fewer than 150 children. Eighteen schools have fewer than 100. Over the past 30 years the number of secondaries has halved while the primary sector has shrunk by just 12 per cent, from 222 schools to 197, although the number of pupils has fallen by 62 per cent.

Steven Purcell, the city's education convener, promised an open consultation with parents about plans to regenerate the primary sector which is facing a pound;151 million repairs backlog.

"It's a something-for-something policy that will be welcomed by parents, teachers and pupils. The difference this time is that it's not financially driven," Mr Purcell said. "Previous administrations looked at this because of financial constraints and efforts to make savings but this time there are no savings to the council. We will invest and reinvest in the education service."

Mr Purcell ruled out the PPP financial route used to overhaul the city's 29 secondaries. The existing capital programme will be backed by cash from selling off school sites and the Scottish Executive-backed "prudential" borrowing initiative which allows the use of more conventional funding approaches.

The city wants to extend its pound;26 million pilot, due to be completed next year, of 0-12 schools which include merged primaries, nurseries and family centres, and some special education units. Single-site school and community facilities will tackle social inclusion.

It is understood it may take 10 years to complete the programme by the more traditional funding route, although Mr Purcell promised that initial spending estimates would be available within a month and a start made next year once plans are agreed.

Officials say that the post-McCrone agreement has changed the teaching landscape in primary and racked up the need for change. A quarter of parents choose to send their child to a non-local primary and away from smaller schools. Surveys showed that parents were interested in a school's reputation first, then the accommodation and then class size.

Mr Purcell said it was "unacceptable" that some primaries were forced to run with triple composite classes because of their small numbers. Over the next three years, a further 3,000 pupils are expected to drop off the primary roll, increasing the pressure to act. In the last 15 years, the roll will have fallen by more than 21 per cent.

* How things change

Three years ago, in reply to a TES Scotland story about possible closures, Charles Gordon, who remains council leader, said: "I find it inconceivable that the council would consult on the closure of up to 50 schools . . .

when there is no educational justification for the social chaos that might ensue."

Mr Gordon added: "Glasgow is a city which wants to regenerate its neighbourhoods, and butchering its primary schools isn't the way to do it, no matter what the anonymous sources say."

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